SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - State prison officials may be violating a transgender California inmate's rights by denying her sex reassignment surgery, a federal appeals court ruled Friday as it revived the prisoner's lawsuit against the state.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule on the merits of Philip Rosati's case, but it said her allegations were plausible and sufficient to warrant further review by a court. The 9th Circuit overturned a lower court's decision to dismiss Rosati's lawsuit.
State prison officials said they were reviewing the decision.
Rosati, 59, who now goes by Mia, was convicted of murder and is serving a sentence of 83 years to life at a state prison in San Diego. She says she suffers from extreme gender dysphoria - evidenced by her repeated attempts to castrate herself - and the medically accepted treatment for her condition is sex-reassignment surgery.
She accuses prison officials of violating her rights to equal protection and subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment by denying her sex-reassignment surgery on the recommendation of a physician's assistant, according to the 9th Circuit's opinion.
"Rosati plausibly alleges her symptoms (including repeated efforts at self-castration) are so severe that prison officials recklessly disregarded an excessive risk to her health by denying (sex-reassignment surgery) solely on the recommendation of a physician's assistant with no experience in transgender medicine,'' the court wrote.
At least two other transgender inmates in California have filed lawsuits seeking sex reassignment surgery.
The 9th Circuit in May delayed sex reassignment surgery for convicted killer Michelle-Lael Norsworthy while it considers her case. Norsworthy was scheduled to undergo the procedure on July 1 after a lower court judge ordered the state to provide it as soon as possible.
The state, meanwhile, has recommended Norsworthy be paroled, making it less likely that she will receive the prison-funded surgery before she is released.