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State of Massachusetts has to pay for murderer's sex change operation

November 19, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
This is probably terribly insensitive of me, but I don't feel like paying for an imprisoned murderer's sex change operation, much less electrolysis treatments.

The Associated Press reports today that Michelle Kosilek, who was born Robert, is suing the state of Massachusetts to pay for additional hair-removal treatments. Kosilek already won a court order in September for taxpayer-funded sex change surgery, which apparently has not yet taken place. Kosilek is in a Massachusetts prison for the 1990 murder of his wife, Cheryl.

Kosilek has been diagnosed with gender-identity disorder and has been living as a woman in an all men's prison. According to U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf's ruling, Kosilek has a "serious medical need" for the sex change operation because he has twice tried to kill himself. According to the ruling, Kosilek "continues to suffer intense mental anguish" as a woman trapped in a man's body.

The state already paid for seven hair removal treatments, but stopped paying for them because they were too expensive. Kosilek wants them to be resumed. Kosilek's attorney also wants Wolf to refer to Kosilek as "she" in his rulings instead of "he."

How much does a sex change operation cost for a man who wants to become a woman? Probably at least $25,000, maybe more. Would this guy have been able to afford it if he hadn't committed murder 22 years ago? Maybe not. Most insurance companies don't cover this expensive surgery and others who think they need it have to pay out of pocket. And, after he has the surgery, will he be sent to live in a women's prison?

I don't doubt that some people are born transgender or that surgery might be an appropriate solution for some of them. Kosilek has apparently been a troubled individual since long before the murder, judging from some of the news coverage from the murder trial. The state has spent a fair amount of money fighting Kosilek's request for a sex change operation, to the point where the legal bills total more than the operation would have cost. The state is currently appealing Wolf's ruling.

I do think prisoners deserve to be treated humanely: to have an appropriate diet, appropriate work and recreation, appropriate medical care, including psychiatric treatment. I also think the state is right in its opposition to the sex change operation and should fight to avoid having this ruling set a precedent.

I just don't think a sex change operation or electrolysis treatments for a murderer is necessary or appropriate medical care.


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