U.S. inmate's sex reassignment surgery not needed: prison officials
Robert J. Kosilek, now known as Michelle Kosilek, sits in Bristol County Superior Court in New Bedford, Mass., where Kosilek was on trial for the May 1990 murder of his wife, in this photo taken Jan. 15, 1993. (AP / Lisa Bul)
Paige Sutherland , The Associated Press
Published Thursday, May 8, 2014 3:38PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 8, 2014 3:50PM EDT
BOSTON -- Massachusetts prison officials on Thursday made another push to overturn a court ruling that would force them to provide a taxpayer-funded sex-change operation to a murder convict with gender-identity disorder.
The inmate has been given a substantial amount of care, including female hormones, laser hair removal and psychotherapy, and doesn't need the surgery, the Department of Corrections attorney Richard McFarland told the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
"The clinician didn't say you must have this surgery, but that if you want it you can get it," McFarland said Thursday. Only 5 per cent of people diagnosed with the disorder actually undergo sex-assignment surgery, he added.
Michelle Kosilek, born Robert Kosilek, has been in a heated legal battle to get the surgery, which she says is required to relieve the emotional stress caused by the disorder. Kosilek is currently serving a life sentence for killing spouse Cheryl Kosilek in 1990.
In 2012, a federal judge ruled that the department must give Kosilek the surgery.
In January, that decision was reaffirmed by a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said it is a constitutional right to receive medically necessary treatment "even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox."
The prisons department appealed and won a rehearing before the full appeals court. Five appeals court judges heard arguments on the matter Thursday and could take months to issue a decision.
If it loses its appeals, Massachusetts would be the first state to fund sex-reassignment surgery for an inmate.