Michelle Kosilek has been living as a woman in an all-male prison throughout her incarceration, and corrects inmates and prison guards if they refer to her as a man.
Last year US District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections “must provide sex-reassignment surgery” for an inmate, Michelle Kosilek, who is serving a life sentence for murder. But as the Associated Press reports, the Department of Corrections has appealed the ruling, and on Tuesday, their attorney Richard McFarland told the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals,
Kosilek has received adequate treatment for gender-identity disorder, including female hormone treatments, laser hair removal and psychotherapy. Those treatments … have alleviated the stress and anxiety felt by Kosilek, who has been “highly functional” in prison and has not attempted suicide during the 20 years she has been in state prison.
However, Frances Cohen, Kosilek’s lawyer told the panel of three judges that “severe gender-identity disorder is a debilitation condition characterized by suicide attempts, castration and self-mutilation.” She said Kosilek, “Suffers … mental anguish on a daily basis,” and had attempted suicide shortly before the current trial.
Judge Wolf stated in his ruling in September that the reassingment surgery was the “only adequate treatment” for the inmate, and that “there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.” McFarland however argues that, “There was an effective treatment for that disorder,” and that Wolf’s ruling,”expands the Eighth Amendment to new heights.”
After the hearing, Cohen asserted that although Kosilek has received various treatments, it has not been enough to “ameliorate her disorder.” She also pointed out that the surgery would be paid for under a contract the DOC has with their medical provider and would not increase the states cost at all. Cohen said, “I think the Eighth Amendment imposes an obligation to provide medical services.”
The appeals court has taken the case “under advisement,” and will make a ruling within the next tree months.