Gibson v. Collier, No. 16-51148 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
A state does not inflict cruel and unusual punishment by declining to provide sex reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate. Plaintiff, a transgender Texas prison inmate in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), filed suit challenging TDCJ Policy G-51.11 as unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment, both facially and as applied. Plaintiff contended that Policy G-51.11 amounted to systematic deliberate indifference to his medical needs, because it prevented TDCJ from even considering whether sex reassignment surgery was medically necessary for him. The district court granted summary judgment for the Director of TDCJ based on the merits of plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.
The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiff failed to present a genuine dispute of material fact concerning TDCJ's deliberate indifference to plaintiff's serious medical needs under the Eighth Amendment where, as here, the claim concerned treatment over which there exists on-going controversy within the medical community. As the First Circuit concluded in Kosilek v. Spencer, 774 F.3d 63, 76–78, 87–89, 96 (1st Cir. 2014) (en banc), there was no consensus in the medical community about the necessity and efficacy of sex reassignment surgery as a treatment for gender dysphoria. The court also held that plaintiff could not state a claim for cruel and unusual punishment under the plain text and original meaning of the Eighth Amendment, regardless of any facts he might have presented in the event of remand. The court held that it could not be cruel and unusual to deny treatment that no other prison has ever provided.