A federal judge in Massachusetts on Tuesday ordered the state’s Department of Correction to provide a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder with sex-change surgery.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that refusing to provide the treatment for Michelle Kosilek violated the Eighth Amendment, which requires the government to provide prisoners with adequate medical care.
“[A]dequate medical care requires addressing the causes of a prisoner’s serious medical need rather than merely providing treatment to reduce the pain in causes,” Wolf explained in his ruling (PDF).
Kosilek, who was born man, was convicted of murder in the killing of her wife in 1990. Kosilek has received hormone treatments for gender identity disorder. But the Massachusetts Department of Correction refused to pay for sex-change surgery, claiming it would make make her a target for sexual assault in the all-male prison.
Based on expert testimonies, Wolf said sex-change surgery was “medically necessary” for Kosilek. Wolf said it was up to the Department of Corrections to decide where Kosilek should be incarcerated after the surgery.
Last month, the American Psychiatric Association called for greater access to gender transition treatments.
“Long-standing medical and psychiatric literature demonstrates clear benefits of medical and surgical interventions to assist gender variant individuals seeking transition,” the organization said. “However, transgender and gender variant people are frequently denied medical, surgical, and psychiatric care related to gender transition.”
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