Little is right; judges should not replace the doctors

Carly Roes

Governor Brad Little wrote a letter, released Aug. 30, stating his disapproval for a decision federal judges have made in regard to a transgender inmate’s request for gender reassignment surgery, saying they “have overstepped once again … .”

If endorsed, taxpayers will be the ones responsible for not only the cost of this surgery but for more lawsuits in the future demanding medically unnecessary procedures for prisoners.

Adree Edmo is a prisoner serving 10 years after admitting guilt in 2012 for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy. Edmo was born male but claims to be a woman and is seeking gender reassignment surgery. Edmo would have been eligible for parole by now but because of his behavior behind bars is no longer eligible for parole.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supported a lower court’s ruling to provide the surgery, calling it an urgent need. This decision means that the court ignored the professional opinions of Edmo’s doctors and multiple mental health professionals, who agreed gender reassignment surgery is neither medically necessary nor safe given Edmo’s mental state and incarceration.

Medical professionals have been treating Edmo for more than seven years. He has been treated with hormone therapy but federal court records show that having male genitals caused him to be “depressed, embarrassed, (and) disgusted.”

The judges instead relied on the testimony of a medical expert hired by the prisoner’s attorneys who had one encounter with him before coming to the conclusion that the surgery was medically necessary.

Governor Little declared his plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judges shouldn’t replace doctors. This case sets a perilous and expensive precedent. It opens the door to let activist judges decide which treatments inmates will receive while in custody. Activist judges shouldn’t overrule the professional opinion of the treating physician that has more experience and history with the inmate.

It is not a slippery slope to see a time in the future when an activist judge can undermine a medical professional opinion and order an unnecessary procedure. What happens when an inmate is insecure about their nose? It makes them feel, as Edmo put it, “depressed, embarrassed and disgusted.” Is it my tax paying responsibility to pony up for their plastic surgery?

This precedent incentivizes transgender people without means to commit a crime worthy of jail time in order to have taxpayers pay for their expensive, elective gender reassignment surgery. Reassignment surgery can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Edmo is nearing the end of his sentence and would have been eligible for parole. It appears as though he is willing to remain incarcerated for the potential to have the surgery performed at no cost to him.

There is a deeper mental disturbance when a person is willing to spend 10 years of their life in prison so they can get a surgery rather than having freedom as your birth gender. I can’t agree that being trapped in a male body is worse than actual prison. Especially when being out of prison gives him both freedom and the opportunity to have the surgery.

Edmo claims his Eight Amendment right is being violated by being denied the procedure. Edmo has already been receiving alternative treatments for his gender dysphoria, so is it really “cruel and unusual” to refuse him gender reassignment surgery when his condition can and is being treated in other ways?

I agree with Gov. Little when he says “We must remain focused on reducing our prison population, not incentivizing people to get in prison and stay in prison. We should not divert critical public dollars away from the priorities of keeping the public safe and rehabilitating offenders.”

Rehabilitation is supposed to change who you are on the inside not who you want to be on the outside.

As a middle child, Carly Roes has a fine-tuned sense of justice. A mother of two and master of none, she enjoys her experience one day at a time.

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