fb-pixel Skip to main content

Hospital signals interest in Kosilek surgery

Robert Kosilek sat in Bristol County Superior Court in New Bedford in this Jan. 15, 1993, photo.
Robert Kosilek sat in Bristol County Superior Court in New Bedford in this Jan. 15, 1993, photo.AP file

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 Tuesday, 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 department will send Kosilek out of state to have 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 Correction Department 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 Tuesday, Spencer said the chosen doctor must be licensed by the Board of Registration in Medicine and obtain malpractice insurance, a process that could take up to 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 its board of directors at some point in the near future, ­Spencer wrote.


Correction Department spokeswoman Diane Wiffin ­declined to 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 department’s effort.

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.

Wolf concluded that ­Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment was ­being violated because the medical profession 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 fled to New York State before he was arrested.

Kosilek was convicted of first-degree murder in January 1993 and is serving a life sentence. The Globe refers to ­Kosilek as a woman because that is her preferred gender.

The Patrick administration is appealing Wolf’s ruling. While that is pending, Wolf has put Kosilek’s surgery on hold. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has set April 2 for oral arguments in the case.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@­globe.com.