Taxpayers may have to foot the bill for criminals’ sex-change operations

Robert Kosilek, a convicted murderer, is arguing that the sex-change surgery is a “medical necessity” and that the Department of Corrections is violating his constitutional rights.
Thu Aug 25, 2011 - 6:05 pm EST

BOSTON, MA, August 25, 2011 ( - A federal judge in Boston is on the cusp of deciding whether or not taxpayers will be forced to fund sex-change operations for convicted criminals.

In 1990, the plaintiff in the case, Robert Kosilek, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife. Three years into his sentence Kosilek changed his name and appearance and now lives as “Michelle” in an all-male prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Kosilek sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC) 10 years into his sentence for not adequately treating his gender identity disorder (GID). In that case U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Kosilek could receive hormonal treatment for his disorder, but he did not permit Kosilek to undergo a surgery that would biologically alter his body to make it look more like a woman’s body.


Not happy with this ruling, Kosilek sued the department five years later, this time arguing that the hormonal treatment was insufficient to relieve his depression and anxiety.

Kosilek, now 62, is making his case on the grounds that the sex-change surgery is a “medical necessity” and that the Department of Corrections is violating his constitutional rights by refusing to provide it, reports AP.

“The greatest loss is the dying I do inside a little bit every day,” said Kosilek during his testimony.

The case appeared to turn in Kosilek’s favor after an August 15th ruling from a Seventh Circuit court in Wisconsin stated that that state’s Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act violates the Eighth Amendment.

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” American jurisprudence has interpreted the Eighth Amendment to apply to medical treatment of prisoners, so that a state may not “deny effective treatment for the serious medical needs of prisoners.”

According to the recent ruling of the Seventh Circuit Court, which may act as a precedent in Kosilek’s case, gender identity disorder “is a serious medical condition.”

Richard McFarland, a lawyer for Massachusetts’ Department of Corrections told AP that the department has given Kosilek hormone treatments, female items, and psychotherapy to help him deal with his disorder. “We argue that the treatment provided to Miss (sic) Kosilek is adequate” and the surgery is not a “medical necessity,” he said.

But Kosilek testified in his current lawsuit that the female hormones treatment had not been enough to relieve his “suffering” and that he would likely “commit suicide” if he did not get the surgery, reported AP.

Kosilek’s lawyers wasted no time in bringing the recent ruling against Wisconsin’s Department of Corrections to the attention of Judge Wolf.

If Kosilek wins his suit on the rationale that sex-change surgery is a “medical necessity,” it could open the road for numerous criminals with gender identity disorder who would gladly undergo the $20,000 sex-change operation at taxpayers’ expense.

Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who was behind a 1998 initiative to ban sex-change operations for convicted criminals, has pointed out that most private health insurers do not cover sex-change operations. He argues that taxpayers should not have to pay for such “elective” surgery for criminals, according to AP.

“I just think it would be deemed a luxury for him to have that operation. He is in there because he murdered his wife. There are no luxuries that are supposed to be available.”

Judge Wolf has requested that both sides submit additional arguments September 16th. Another hearing is scheduled for October 11th.

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