BOSTON — Massachusetts prison officials on Friday said they will appeal a decision that would force them to provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery for an inmate serving a life sentence for murder.
The state Department of Correction said it will request a hearing by the full 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Michelle Kosilek.
Two weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the same court upheld a judge’s decision granting Kosilek’s request for the surgery. The rehearing would be before the full court of six justices.
The appeals court panel said receiving medically necessary treatment is a constitutional right that must be protected “even if that treatment strikes some as odd or unorthodox.”
Michelle Kosilek was born Robert Kosilek and was convicted in the killing of spouse Cheryl Kosilek in 1990.
Kosilek sued, and after a lengthy legal battle, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled in 2012 that the state Department of Correction must provide the surgery.
Prison officials argued that Kosilek had received adequate treatment for gender identity disorder, including female hormones, laser hair removal and psychotherapy. They also cited security concerns, saying they were concerned about protecting Kosilek from sexual assaults if she is allowed to complete her gender transition.
“While we acknowledge the legitimacy of a gender identity disorder diagnosis, DOC’s appeal is based on the lower court’s significant expansion of the standard for what constitutes adequate care under the Eighth Amendment, and on substantial safety concerns regarding Ms. Kosilek’s post-surgery needs,” the DOC said in a statement Friday.
Kosilek’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.