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Appeals court to hear case on gender reassignment surgery for convicted murderer

Saturday, March 2, 2013

BOSTON — A federal appeals court will hear arguments in April in an appeal of a judge’s ruling granting a taxpayer-funded sex change for a Massachusetts transgender inmate.

Michelle Kosilek

The state is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ordering prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender female inmate convicted of murder and who is serving a life sentence.

Wolf, who acknowledged that his previous ruling on the surgery was “unpopular and misunderstood,” ruled on Nov. 20 that he would suspend his order until an appeal of his ruling by the administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

On Thursday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston scheduled the hearing for April 2.

Wolf ruled in September that the surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Koslek’s gender-identity disorder.

The state says there are legitimate safety concerns of protecting her in prison if she has the surgery.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Corrections 12 years ago. After two years of litigation, Kosilek — in her first appearance before Wolf — won the right to receive hormone treatments, although at that time, Wolf stopped short of ordering the gender reassignment surgery.

Her lawsuit has become fodder for radio talk shows and Massachusetts lawmakers, who said the state should not be forced to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex-change operation – which can cost up to $20,000 – since many insurance companies reject the surgery as elective.

Kosilek was named Robert when convicted in the 1990 murder of wife Cheryl Kosilek.

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23 more reader comments:

  1. Oh hell no!

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 2:43pm
  2. Absolutely not! I think inmates receive FAR more than they should, transgender or not. I’m sorry, I feel bad for this person but I don’t think it’s fair for TAXPAYERS to pay for this.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 2:49pm
  3. Insurance Companies (Humana, Anthem, Blue Cross/Shield, Primesource and even MEDICAID) doesn’t even pay for it. I heard about this 3 months ago with a “sucicidal transgender” prisoner who demanded the surgery and won. I am liberal, but I am trying to change my position on this. But, I just don’t understand why someone who murdered another human being should get the comforts on the backs of Transgender tax payers who work 40+ hours a week and have insurance (that doesn’t even pay for their surgery). Give me a break!

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 2:54pm
  4. Criminals should NOT get any extra gifts.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 2:59pm
  5. I really don’t think the taxpayers should pay for this. Just saying…

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:04pm
  6. I don’t agree with this at all.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:11pm
  7. Taxpayers shouldn’t fit the bill. If the person wanted help, shouldn’t have done the crime

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:11pm
  8. As much of an LGBT ally as I am, she murdered someone. I’m not paying for her surgery, and neither should anyone else.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:17pm
  9. Having reassignment surgery in this case is a privilege. You tossed that out when you murdered a human being. Showing you aren’t one.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:24pm
  10. I thought when you go to jail after you commit MURDER you have all rights taken away!! I feel bad for this person but if it was that important they would have walked that straight (forgive my pun) line like all of us do to live life as free individuals .. Sorry, don’t want to pay for a murderers mistakes gay straight transgender or otherwise!!

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:26pm
  11. It’s a medical necessity and she is entitled to it.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:30pm
  12. None of you would deny her a heart transplant.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:30pm
  13. I agree with Chase Bowen – seriously this person cannot have this surgery on our dime when he took another person’s life.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:31pm
  14. How is that a medical necessity?

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:34pm
  15. U murder your wife and in turn u get a sex change? Hmmm really now

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 3:36pm
  16. i say hell no this person doesnt get any surgery they are in jail they shouldnt be rewarded at all

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 4:51pm
  17. Seeing as how she’s confirmed transgender by a doctor, they should just put her in a women’s prison. The real problem here is that the law says she’s a man until she has the surgery. Meaning they have her in a men’s prison. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a woman in a men’s prison? Even a trans woman that “doesn’t pass” such as her, would be subjected to all kinds of sexual violence because she is on hormones, and would have the muscle structure of a woman. She would have a lot of trouble defending herself, so that’s reason enough for another inmate to attack her. She would be on level playing field with other inmates in a women’s prison. Even though since she killed a woman to get in prison, this would make some people uneasy, it would still be fairer to everyone involved.

    The woman in me really hates hearing about a woman overpowered and strangled by a physically advantaged person while they were in an intimate relationship. The trans woman in me hates that I will have to *work my ass off* to get the surgery and the state is paying for someone else’s because they killed a woman. But the truth of the matter is that it’s because of the law regarding her gender status being Male without the surgery, their keeping her in a men’s prison *is* cruel and unusual punishment. Without the surgery, the law is condemning this woman to assured serial rape and assault until she dies. I don’t think the State should sentence anyone to serial rape, regardless of the crime. That is cruel and unusual punishment. If I were sent to 20+ years of men’s prison living full-time as a woman and being on hormones for longer than I presently have been, I would probably try to kill myself immediately without hesitation, knowing what kind of life I had ahead of me.

    So I can understand why this person has a legal case. The answer is to transfer her to a women’s prison, but since people would object to that, too. It’s easier for the Government to just spend more money (what’s it to them?) then to do the right thing and have ignorant people give them ever more backlash for it?

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 5:37pm
  18. Intresting!

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:11pm
  19. if you are in prison for any length of time…..i object to tax payers paying for surgery of any kind! need a heart….too bad….die naturally. thats life. so tired of our dime keeping these human trash heaps alive. let them die. bring back capital punishment and stop giving life sentences. let them rot in a grave rather than on our dime!

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:28pm
  20. No this should not fall on the tax payers….rachel if you have such a big soft spot for him then YOU go and pay every single penny for him…I work more than 40hrs a week in the military since May 2001 and now looking at haveing to get out because I got hurt to bad….I do not want one single penny I earned going to a criminal that has done nothing but ride the system and feels he is entitled…a MEDICAL must have is a heart…a lung…bone transplant etc….those are life or death…..if your so worried about him being attacked then they can put in protective custody or admin SEG where not one other inmate would be able to get close enough to him.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 8:26pm
  21. i’m all for gay/transgender rights but i don’t agree with this at all.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 10:10pm
  22. I understand transgender via my 18 year old ftm – but convicted murderer,um no. This person has
    pretty much made her bed and now must suffer like all of those thousands who deserve the surgery but can’t afford it and a life to pursue. Please,budgets for convicts are already tight.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 10:17pm
  23. there is no logical reason for taxpayers to foot the bill for this. Let this person deal with the issue on their own upon fulfilling the debt to society.

    Posted on Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 11:10pm