Idaho Judge Rules Dept of Corrections Must Pay for Inmate’s Gender Surgery

Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Idaho’s Department of Corrections had to provide surgery for a male inmate who identified as a woman.

By refusing to provide treatment to 31-year-old Adree Edmo, the state, according to Judge B. Lynn Winmill, was engaging in the type of “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment in the Constitution.

“For more than forty years, the Supreme Court has consistently held that consciously ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Winmill said, according to the Associated Press.

Winmill argued that the state ignored “generally accepted medical standards” for treating Edmo who continued feeling gender dysphoria even after undergoing hormone therapy.

“Many transgender individuals are comfortable living with their gender role, expression and identity without surgery,” the Idaho State Journal reported Winmill saying. “For others, however, gender confirmation surgery … is the only effective treatment.”

Edmo was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2012 and faced prison time for sexual abuse of a child under 16.

Amy Whelan, Edmo’s attorney, portrayed the surgery as a “life-saving” measure for Edmo who reportedly used a sterilized razor blade to try and remove a testicle.

Whelan wasn’t the first to make that argument. Earlier this year, Starbucks similarly promoted the story of an employee who described electrolysis, breast augmentation, and other treatments as “life-saving.”

While the nation continues to debate the issue, prominent literature reviews — examining the broader field of evidence on gender health care — indicated a lack of sufficient evidence to determine whether related medical procedures were helpful.

In 2004, for example, the Guardian commissioned a study examining whether gender reassignment surgery was effective in treating trans individuals’ symptoms.

After reviewing more than 100 international medical studies of post-operative transsexuals, the study found no “conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals.” It instead reported that many people remained “severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation.”

Ten years later, a literature review concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to support meaningful conclusions. After reviewing 33 studies, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid similarly concluded that the overall “quality and strength of the evidence were low.”

“Collectively, the evidence is inconclusive for the Medicare population,” the agency said.

Thursday’s decision was just the latest in which the government mandated accommodations for individuals who identified as transgender.

Last year, for example, a judge ruled that California had to provide inmates with feminine accessories and things like compression underwear. In Wisconsin, as IJR previously reported, a judge went so far as to argue that the state’s Medicaid services had to provide surgery for individuals who identified as transgender.

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