US: Judges hear arguments in state appeal against gender reassignment for trans prisoner

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Attorneys acting for a US convict went to court on Thursday as state officials argued that her gender reassignment should not be paid for by taxpayers.

Judge Mark Wolf, of Massachusetts ruled in September 2012 that Michelle Kosilek should be given gender reassignment surgery in prison, as the “only adequate treatment” of her gender dysphoria. He also ruled that her legal costs should be covered.

Upon ruling on the surgery, Judge Wolf said: “there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.”

Prison officials appealing the ruling and have already argued that they have security concerns, and are worried that they won’t be able to protect Kosilek in prison if she is given the surgery.

The ruling was upheld by the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in January, but the state appealed.

On Thursday, the full panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments from the Massachusetts Department of Correction, which argued that the state should not pay for the surgery.

Kosilek’s attorney Joseph Sulman, however, responded: “Under the Eighth Amendment, the standard is that prisoners are entitled to adequate medical care, minimally adequate medical care, not the care of their choice or optimal care. In this case, the doctors hired by the prison said that this is her minimally adequate care. That she has a serious medical need that can only be treated by this condition.”

The Department argued that there would be security concerns following the surgery.

A ruling in the case is expected to come at a later date.