By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts prisoner suffering from gender identity disorder should be provided a sex-change operation paid for by the state's prison system, according to a federal appeals court decision issued on Friday.
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, in a ruling by a panel of three judges, said it agreed with a lower court ruling from 2012 that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections was obligated to provide the surgery as treatment for the inmate, who is serving a life sentence for murder.
"Having carefully considered the relevant law and the extensive factual record, we affirm the judgment of the district court," Judge Rogeriee Thompson wrote for the court.
The 63-year-old inmate, who legally changed his name to Michelle Kosilek from Robert Kosilek, sued the Department of Corrections more than a decade ago trying to force it to pay for gender reassignment surgery.
Kosilek was convicted in 1992 of murdering his wife, a counselor he had met while he was in drug rehabilitation, after she caught him wearing her clothes.
Judge Mark Wolf of the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled in 2012 that the state had violated Kosilek's rights by denying the procedure, noting that Corrections Department medical personnel had recommended it as necessary treatment for his gender-identity disorder.
The Department of Corrections challenged the decision, claiming that denying sex-change surgery does not constitute inadequate medical care.
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Leslie Adler)