Murderer's Bid To Have The State Pay For His Sex Change Is Bogged Down In Federal CourtBOSTON, June 26, 2007
Robert Kosilek, en route to the county jail following his arraignment on drunken driving charges in New Rochelle, N.Y., 1990. Right: Robert J. Kosilek, now known as Michelle, is seen in this file photo taken in a New Bedford, Mass. courthouse, 1993. (CBS/AP)
Kosilek was convicted of strangling his wife in 1990. He claimed he killed her in self-defense after she spilled boiling tea on his genitals.
The question at the center of the case: Should a murderer serving life in prison get a sex-change operation at taxpayer expense?
The case of Michelle — formerly Robert — Kosilek is being closely watched across the country by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change. Transgender inmates in other states have sued prison officials, and not one has succeeded in persuading a judge to order a sex-change operation.
The Massachusetts Correction Department is vigorously fighting Kosilek's request for surgery, saying it would create a security nightmare and make Kosilek a target for sexual assault.
An Associated Press review of the case, including figures obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews, found that the Correction Department and its outside health care provider have spent more than $52,000 on experts to testify about an operation that would cost about $20,000.
The duration and expense of the case have outraged some lawmakers who insist that taxpayers should not have to pay for inmates to have surgery that most private insurers reject as elective.
"They are prisoners. They are there because they've broken the law," said Republican state Sen. Scott Brown, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill to ban sex-change surgery for inmates. "Other folks, people who want to get these types of surgeries, they have to go through their insurance carrier or save up for it and do it independently. Yet if you are in prison, you can do it for nothing? That doesn't make a lot of sense."
But advocates say in some cases — such as that of Kosilek, who has twice attempted suicide — sex-change surgery is as much a medical necessity as treatment for diabetes or high blood pressure. . . .