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LeGaL to 9th Circuit: Uphold the Healthcare Rights of Trans Prisoners

LeGaL, The LGBT Bar Association of New York joined Lambda Legal, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other civil rights organizations in a brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Edmo v. Idaho Department of Correction et al, urging the court to uphold the healthcare rights of transgender prisoners. As LeGaL reported in the January edition of Law Notes, Chief U.S. District Judge Barry Lynn Winmill ordered the Idaho Department of Corrections to provide transgender inmate Andree Edmo with “adequate medical care, including gender confirmation surgery,” within six months.

From the brief:

"The Eighth Amendment principles that govern this case are well established and make no exception for incarcerated transgender persons or the treatment that is medically necessary to address gender dysphoria. As both the Supreme Court and this Court have held, the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials like the Idaho Department of Correction (Idaho) and its healthcare provider Corizon, Inc. to provide medically necessary treatment to incarcerated persons with serious medical needs in a manner consistent with widely-accepted and prudent professional standards and appropriate to the individual incarcerated person’s current medical condition."

"Consistent with these principles, the district court determined that Defendants had failed to provide medically necessary care to Ms. Edmo, and ordered that they provide adequate medical care including gender confirmation surgery. The district court held that Defendants’ failure to apply medically accepted criteria and provide safe and effective treatment to Ms. Edmo despite the high risk of future harm constituted deliberate indifference to her medical needs. Defendants cannot find shelter in dissenting medical views that depart from an established consensus of prudent professionals to sanction its treatment denials. The Supreme Court and the courts of appeals consistently look to the views of the relevant medical or professional community to inform judgments on the propriety of treatment decisions and other Eighth Amendment considerations. In accord with these principles, the district court properly credited the experts who testified on Adree Edmo’s behalf about the Standards for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender-Nonconforming People issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH Standards)—the recognized articulation of professional consensus on the treatment of gender dysphoria—and about medical necessity of gender confirmation surgery for Ms. Edmo under WPATH guidance."

"In doing so, the district court did not substitute the standards set forth by WPATH for the requirements of the Eighth Amendment any more than the Supreme Court did by crediting the views of the American Psychological Association when it concluded that the Constitution prohibits the execution of a person with severe intellectual disabilities. Recognizing the WPATH Standards as the “generally accepted medical standards for the treatment of gender dysphoria,” the district court concluded that by ignoring those standards, Defendants displayed “deliberate indifference to Ms. Edmo’s serious medical needs and violate[d] her rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” The district court rejected the misrepresentation of those standards made by Defendants’ experts, and concluded that Defendants’ reliance on the opinions of an individual considered “an outlier in the field of gender dysphoria”—whose materials “do not reflect opinions that are generally accepted in the field of gender dysphoria”—reflected bias against providing appropriate gender confirming care to Ms. Edmo,"

"The district court determined that faithful application of established constitutional principles required that Defendants provide Ms. Edmo with gender confirmation surgery to treat her severe gender dysphoria. The dispute here is not about a difference of professional opinion, as Defendants contend. The Eighth Amendment does not allow a prison healthcare provider to abandon medically accepted standards of treatments and then justify its decision as a matter of professional discretion. To the contrary, the case law makes clear that such actions constitute deliberate indifference, and the district court’s issuance of a preliminary injunction should be affirmed."

Read the brief here.

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