The Courthouse News Service reports that the Fourth Circuit has ruled that the Commonwealth of Virginia violated a transgender inmate’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by refusing to grant gender reassignment surgery.
[The inmate] has said that she tried castrating herself in makeshift surgeries after repeated denials of her medical requests left her with “constant mental anguish.” … [Following a settlement,] she filed a new lawsuit stating that the continued denial of surgery unconstitutionally ignored her serious medical needs. U.S. District Judge James Turk in Roanoke, Va., dismissed the suit, finding that the prison officials had denied “only her preferred therapy of surgery,” and were not indifferent to De’lonta’s care.
She appealed to the 4th Circuit with help from the DC Trans Coalition and the national and local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union.
A three-judge panel in Richmond found unanimously in her favor on Monday.
Virginia prisons cannot justify providing partial treatment for other medical needs, the opinion states.
“By analogy, imagine that prison officials prescribe a painkiller to an inmate who has suffered a serious injury from a fall, but that the inmate’s symptoms, despite the medication, persist to the point that he now, by all objective measure, requires evaluation for surgery,” Judge Albert Diaz wrote for the panel. “Would prison officials then be free to deny him consideration for surgery, immunized from constitutional suit by the fact they were giving him a painkiller?”
Though decision upholds the theoretical right for De’lonta to obtain the surgery, it stops short at ordering the prison to provide it to her.
For more, please visit:
Adam Klasfeld, Court Gives VA Inmate Sex-Reassignment Right, COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE, Jan. 30, 2013, http://www.courthousenews.com/2013/01/30/54384.htm