US prison officials tell appeals court murder inmate's sex change not needed

Paige Sutherland / The Associated Press
May 8, 2014 12:03 PM

FILE - This May 1990 file booking photo provided by the New Rochelle, N.Y., police department, shows Robert Kosilek, arrested on drunken driving charges. Kosilek was convicted for the May 1990 murder of his wife, and now lives as a woman named Michelle Kosilek, in a Massachusetts prison serving a life sentence for murder. State prison officials will argue before a federal appeals court Thursday, May 8, 2014 in Boston, that the state should not have to pay for sex change surgery for Kosilek. A federal judge ruled in 2012 the state Department of Correction must provide surgery to treat Kosilek's gender-identity disorder. (AP Photo/New Rochelle Police Department, File)

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.


© Coast Reporter
Coast Reporter

Email to a Friend

Close

QUESTION OF THE WEEK POLL

Do you regularly have a sit-down meal with your family?

or  view results

Click here to read the story

Popular Coast Reporter

Community Event Calendar


Find out what's happening in your community and submit your own local events.