Supreme Court rejects Mass. inmate's appeal for sex change

Supreme Court rejects Mass. inmate's appeal for sex change
© Greg Nash



The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a Massachusetts inmate seeking a state-funded sex-change operation.


Michelle Kosilek claims the Massachusetts Department of Corrections violated her Eighth Amendment right, when it refused to treat her gender identity disorder with gender reassignment surgery. Kosilek, who entered prison in 1992, has long self-identified as a woman who is trapped inside a man’s body, court documents said.

After granting a petition to rehear the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned its original decision and in a 3-2 ruling and sided, instead, with the state. In his opinion, Judge Juan Torruella said the care provided to Kosilek by the Department of Corrections does not violate the Eighth Amendment, which imposes on prison officials a duty to provide inmates with adequate medical care and to protect prisoners from violence while incarcerated.

The lower court held here that the Department of Corrections could constitutionally deny medical treatment to Kosilek based on security concerns, even though a gender identity disorder (GID) specialist diagnosed Kosilek with severe GID.

Kosilek’s appeal, which was denied, asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from denying necessary medical treatment to a prisoner for nonmedical reasons, such as security concerns. 

The high court did not provide comment on its decision to let the lower court’s ruling stand.