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Massachusetts judge rules for inmate's sex-change surgery
(CNN) -- A federal court judge on Tuesday ordered
Massachusetts officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery for a
transsexual prison inmate, after determining that it was the only
adequate treatment for the inmate's mental illness.
The state's Department of
Correction said Michelle Kosilek, previously known as Robert, who is
serving a life sentence without parole for murdering his wife in 1990,
has a gender identity disorder.
She attempted to castrate
herself and tried to commit suicide twice while incarcerated in an
all-male prison in Norfolk, according to a court order.
"We are very happy with
the ruling, of course. We are still reviewing the opinion and we
anticipate the Department of Corrections will follow Judge Wolf's order
and promptly arrange for Michelle Kosilek to receive her treatment,"
Kosilek's attorney Joseph Sulman said Tuesday.Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf
ruled that sex reassignment surgery is the "only adequate treatment" for
Kosilek, and "that there is no less intrusive means to correct the
prolonged violation of Kosilek's Eighth Amendment right to adequate
"This is the first
decision in which the court has ordered a prison to provide sex
reassignment surgery as the necessary medical treatment for a
transsexual inmate," said Ben Klein, senior attorney with the Gay and
Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.
But according to court
documents, this ruling was not an unfamiliar case for this court.
Kosilek's case dates back
two decades ago, when she was first incarcerated.
According to Francis
Cohen, the lead counsel of Kosilek's initial lawsuit, Kosilek did not
receive any treatment for her disorder from 1992 to 2002, even though
she had repeatedly asked the prison for help.
It wasn't until 1999,
when Kosilek first filed suit, that the court recognized her medical
In 2002, the court found
that the Department of Correction had refused to provide Kosilek with
the proper medical treatment she needed as had been prescribed by the
In that ruling, the
court found that the department's refusal was "rooted in sincere
security concerns, and in fear of public and political criticism as
That year, Kosilek began
to receive necessary medical treatments in the form of psychotherapy
and hormone treatments.
"It's quite common that
the denial of important medical treatments is based on a bias against
transgender people rather than on science," Klein said.
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A 2009 University of
California, Irvine study of prison inmates in California found that a
transgender inmate is 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than
the average inmate, adding on to security concerns above medical ones.
excited and very, very pleased. She's very glad the court has recognized
her need for this surgery," Cohen said of her client.
According to the
American Society of Plastic Surgeons, with all operations, therapy,
hormone injections and electrolysis, the cost of sex reassignment
surgery can range from $30,000 to $80,000.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown,
R-Massachusetts, said in a statement Tuesday that the court's decision
is "an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars. ... I look forward to
common sense prevailing and the ruling being overturned."
The court ruling left it
up to the Department of Correction to decide where Kosilek will be
incarcerated after the surgery.
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