JUNE 27, 2007
A convicted murderer’s demand that taxpayers finance his sex-change operation has cost Massachusetts tens of thousands of dollars to litigate and now officials anxiously await a federal judge’s decision, which will also have an impact on similar cases nationwide.
Convicted of strangling his wife to death in 1990 and dumping her body in her car, Robert Kosilek claims that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body. In 1993 he changed his name to Michelle and has twice sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections claiming that its refusal to finance his costly sex-change operation violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
In 2002 a judge ruled that the incarcerated murderer was entitled to hormone treatments, laser hair removal and psychotherapy for “gender identity disorder,” but Kosilek said only a sex-change operation will relieve his anxiety and depression. He also blames a suicide attempt on the state’s refusal to pick up the $20,000 tab to make him a woman.
A second trial began in a Boston federal court in May 2006 but the judge has yet to issue the highly anticipated ruling. The state has spent more than $52,000 on experts alone and corrections department officials say completing his transformation into a woman would present a serious security problem, not to mention open the floodgates to other inmates who want the same surgery.
In Massachusetts alone, 10 inmates have been diagnosed with so-called gender identity disorder and are receiving expensive hormone treatments. Two others – serving life for murder and 21 years for child rape–have also requested their taxpayer financed sex-change surgery and a favorable ruling in Kosilek’s case will probably grant them theirs.
One outraged Massachusetts state senator, who introduced legislation to ban sex-change surgery for prisoners, said it’s unconscionable that citizens would have to pay for any type of elective sex change operations for any prisoners. He also pointed out that most insurance carriers don’t even pay for such elective procedures and therefore it makes no sense that those who have broken the law can do it for nothing in prison.
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