State prison officials must provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder, because it is the only way to treat her “serious medical need,” a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Michelle Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Robert Kosilek was convicted of murder in the killing of his wife in 1990.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf is believed to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.

Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago. Two years later, Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder but stopped short of ordering surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery is a medical necessity.

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