November 20, 2012

Mass. transgender inmate seeks hair removal

The inmate has no medical need for more hair-removal, a prison psychiatrist testifies.

The Associated Press

BOSTON – A transgender inmate who won a court order for taxpayer-funded sex-change surgery has no medical need for further electrolysis treatments, a prisons department psychiatrist testified Monday.

click image to enlarge

In this Jan. 15, 1993 file photo, Robert Kosilek, aka Michelle Kosilek, sits in Bristol County Superior Court, in New Bedford, Mass. Kosilek, a convicted murderer who won a court ruling ordering Massachusetts prison officials to allow her to have a sex-change operation, is now fighting for electrolysis treatments. (AP Photo/Lisa Bul, File)

Dr. Robert Diener testified during a hearing in U.S. District Court on Michelle Kosilek's request to have additional hair-removal treatments. Diener, chief psychiatrist for the state Department of Correction, said he evaluated Kosilek in 2010 and again last month and concluded that Kosilek's anxiety level hasn't changed, even though she hasn't had electrolysis treatments since 2008.

"I continue to believe that it's not medically necessary for this patient," said Diener, chief psychiatrist at MHM Services, Inc., a company subcontracted by the state Department of Correction to provide mental health services.

Under questioning by Kosilek's lawyer, Diener acknowledged that he had not published any articles or conducted any research on gender-identity disorder, a diagnosis given to Kosilek. Diener also said he was told that the reason prison officials stopped giving Kosilek electrolysis after seven treatments is because it was too expensive.

Kosilek's lawyer, Frances Cohen, said prison officials' refusal to allow Kosilek to have additional treatments is "simply another incident of deliberate indifference" to Kosilek's medical needs.

The department has said it discontinued the treatments after finding she had already received significant hair removal and saying her remaining hair could be removed by shaving or depilatories.

Judge Mark Wolf didn't immediately rule on the request.

In September, Wolf ordered the state to provide sex-reassignment surgery, saying it is the only way to treat Kosilek's "serious medical need."

Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek was named Robert when convicted in the 1990 murder of wife Cheryl Kosilek.

In his ruling, Wolf noted that Kosilek's gender-identity disorder has caused Kosilek so much anguish that she has twice tried to commit suicide. Wolf said Kosilek "continues to suffer intense mental anguish" because she truly believes she is a woman trapped in a man's body.

 

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