Someone who wants a sex-change operation but cannot afford the expensive surgery is pretty much out of luck. Most insurers will not cover the operation, considering it elective surgery.
But Robert Kosilek doesn’t need luck. He has a federal judge on his side.
By virtue of having murdered his wife, Kosilek is an inmate in the Massachusetts state prison system. Kosilek, who has received hormone treatments and is living as a woman in an all-male prison as Michelle Kosilek, will get the sex-reassignment surgery — courtesy of Bay State taxpayers.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled Tuesday that surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s “serious medical need.”
Wolf’s ruling is ludicrous and sets a ridiculous precedent. By Wolf’s logic, prison inmates now enjoy privileges and rights — to free, elective surgery in this case — that the general population does not. The state Department of Corrections should pursue every possible appeal available in this case.
Kosilek murdered his wife, Cheryl Kosilek, in 1990. He was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.
Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago. Two years later, Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder, but stopped short of ordering surgery, the Associated Press reported. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery is a medical necessity.
“In this case Kosilek has proven that he still has a severe gender identity disorder,” Wolf wrote in his decision. “Although female hormones have helped somewhat, he continues to suffer intense mental anguish because of his sincere and enduring belief that he is a female trapped in a male body.”
There was no word from Wolf on whether Kosilek suffers any “intense mental anguish” over killing his wife.
Wolf grounded his ruling in the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel or unusual punishments, saying that Kosilek, like any other prisoner, is entitled to adequate medical care.
“The court finds that there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care,” Wolf wrote.
“Adequate medical care” to a reasonable observer means that if a prisoner needs heart surgery to live, he should get it. If Kosilek is denied sex-reassignment surgery, he will be merely unhappy, which hardly seems a “cruel or unusual” punishment given the nature of his crime.
How many law-abiding transgender people are there in Massachusetts who cannot afford the sex-reassignment surgery they very much want to have? Why should these people be denied while a murderer gets his surgery free from Massachusetts taxpayers?
Republican Sen. Scott Brown, while a state senator in 2008, filed legislation that would have prohibited taxpayer money being used for sex-change surgery for prison inmates. The bill did not pass.
Brown told the Associated Press that funding Kosilek’s surgery would be an “outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
“We have many big challenges facing us as a nation, but nowhere among those issues would I include providing sex change surgery to convicted murderers,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to common sense prevailing and the ruling being overturned.”
Sadly, common sense is an increasingly rare commodity in our judicial system.