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Pack v. Bukowski

March 31, 2010

MICHAEL PACK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STANLEY BUKOWSKI, LUCIEN J. LE CLAIRE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Michael Pack, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS"), asserts claims under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution against Stanley Bukowski and Lucien Leclaire, who at all relevant times were a physician employed by DOCS and the Acting Commissioner of DOCS.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is currently serving a term of imprisonment of twenty years to life for first degree murder. He has been incarcerated since 1997.

In 2003, plaintiff came to believe that he was suffering from gender identity disorder ("GID"), also known as gender dysphoria. Persons with GID can "believe that they are cruelly imprisoned within a body incompatible with their real gender identity," and may have a "desire to change [their] anatomic sexual features to conform physically with [their] perception of [themselves]." Powell v Schriver, 175 F.3d 107, 111 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff, who was born, and remains, a male, alleges that he "believe[s] that [he is] a woman trapped in a man's body." Plaintiff's Aff. (Dkt. #45) ¶ 3.

In 2005, plaintiff was transferred to Wende Correctional Facility. In November 2006, he was seen by Dr. Bukowski at Wende, at which time plaintiff requested hormone treatment (specifically estrogen) for GID. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Bukowski denied his request in January 2007.

At that time, the DOCS Health Services Policy Manual § 1.31 ("Policy 1.31") stated that DOCS would only provide GID treatment for inmates who had been diagnosed with, and received hormonal therapy for, GID prior to their incarceration. Plaintiff has never been diagnosed with GID, before or during his incarceration.

Plaintiff filed the complaint in this action on April 27, 2007. Plaintiff states that he seeks damages for "emotional and mental anguish," as well as injunctive relief in the form of an order directing that he be provided with estrogen treatment. Complaint (Dkt. #4-3) at 5.*fn2

While this action was pending, on January 3, 2008, DOCS modified Policy 1.31 to provide that a diagnosis of GID, as a precondition for treatment, "can be established prior to admission or upon referral to a psychiatrist with specific expertise in this disorder." Dkt. #33 ¶ 26. In February 2008, Dr. Bukowski referred plaintiff for a psychiatric evaluation "in an effort to establish a diagnosis relative to [plaintiff's] complaints related to gender issues," but plaintiff refused to go for the scheduled evaluation. Dkt. #34 Ex. A. Apparently, plaintiff believed that consenting to the evaluation might somehow prejudice his pending lawsuit, because the evaluation had not been ordered or sanctioned by the Court. Plaintiff testified at his deposition in this case that he thought that in light of the pending litigation over these matters, "anything to be done outside of the presence of the court is not the way to go." Dkt. #38 at 47.

DISCUSSION

I. General Principles

The gist of plaintiff's claims in this case is that defendants have denied him adequate medical care, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. To show that prison medical treatment was so inadequate as to amount to "cruel or unusual punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment, plaintiff must prove that defendants' actions or omissions amounted to "deliberate indifference to a serious medical need." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

"Courts have repeatedly held that treatment of a psychiatric or psychological condition may present a 'serious medical need.'" Cuoco v. Moritsugu, 222 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2000) (assuming for purposes of prisoner's appeal that "her transsexualism constitutes a serious medical condition") (quoting Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821 F.2d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 1987)). Among the relevant factors for determining whether a serious medical need exists is "the presence of a medical condition that significantly ...


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