One Massachusetts hospital signals interest in performing sex change surgery on Michelle Kosilek
One Massachusetts hospital has signaled an interest in hosting sex reassignment surgery for convicted killer Michelle L. Kosilek, but the state must still find a doctor from outside Massachusetts willing to get a license and malpractice insurance before the surgery can take place here, according to court records.
In a sworn affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston and made public today, Department of Correction Commissioner Luis S. Spencer said that if the regulatory hurdles cannot be overcome and no Bay State facility is willing to open its operating room, the DOC will send Kosilek out of state for the surgery.
“My preference is to have the SRS [sex reassignment surgery] take place in Massachusetts since the safety and security and logistical issues relative to the transportation and housing of Kosilek pre-and post-surgery and during recuperation, if the SRS takes place out-of-state, would be significant,’’ Spencer wrote in one of the affidavits he has been ordered to file monthly by US District Court Judge Mark Wolf.
Spencer has previously said in court papers that Kosilek could need to be hospitalized for up to 14 days after the surgery is performed.
The DOC has found six doctors outside Massachusetts who have agreed to perform the surgery; five of them said they would come to Massachusetts to do it.
In the court filing today, Spencer said the chosen doctor must be licensed by the Board of Registration in Medicine and obtain malpractice insurance, a process that could take as long as six months to complete.
Spencer also said his staff has contacted a number of Massachusetts hospitals, and only one so far has given the idea of hosting Kosilek’s surgery a preliminary positive response. One other hospital rejected the idea on the grounds that it lacks the medical facilities needed, while a third said it plans to raise the request with the board of directors at some point in the near future, Spencer wrote.
“Once a Massachusetts medical facility willing and able to facilitate the SRS for Kosilek is located, the Department will conduct a security analysis of the logistics involved in providing SRS for Kosilek at the medical facility,’’ Spencer wrote.
Department of Correction spokeswoman Diane Wiffin declined comment on the case, citing the agency’s policy of not discussing pending litigation.
Kosilek’s attorney, Frances S. Cohen, said in a telephone interview that she welcomed the DOC effort, which she said was one of the rare instances during the years of litigation where the state seemed to making an earnest effort to find the needed medical care for Kosilek.
“This is a step in the right direction,’’ said Cohen. “I am glad they are going out to recognized specialists in the field, and I’m glad the specialists would be willing to apply for [medical] privileges in Massachusetts and come to Massachusetts to do the surgery.’’
The names of the doctors and the Bay State hospitals involved have been ordered redacted from the public record by Wolf, who sparked controversy last year when he ruled that the state is violating Kosilek’s constitutional rights by not providing gender reassignment surgery at taxpayers’ expense.
In his landmark ruling, Wolf concluded that Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment was being violated because the medical profession now considers sex reassignment surgery a valid medical treatment for gender identity disorder.
Kosilek was born Robert Kosilek. As a man, he strangled his wife, Cheryl, in Mansfield in 1990 and dumped her body in a car at the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleborough. Kosilek then fled to New York state before being arrested.
Kosilek was convicted of first-degree murder in January 1993 and is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. The Globe refers to Kosilek as a woman because that is her preferred gender.
The Patrick administration is appealing Wolf’s ruling. While the appeal is pending, Wolf has put Kosilek’s surgery on hold, provided that the Department of Correction makes an earnest effort to have a surgical team ready to go once the appeal is resolved.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals has set April 2 for oral arguments in the case.John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.