Chelsea Manning sues for Long Awaited Medical Treatment: ACLU & David Coombs represent her.

SUIT FILED IN FEDERAL COURT TODAY, 23RD SEPT 2014

Represented by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and David Coombs, her trial lawyer, Chelsea Manning has today filed a lawsuit against the Dept of Defense and the Army for failing to provide her with even the most basic gender dysphoria treatment, despite her having been diagnosed over four years ago, and despite it being medically recognised that lack of access to appropriate treatment can be extremely harmful.

[ SEE all filings including the motion, memo, supporting statements (from Chelsea, a clinician and ACLU’s Chase Strangio) with evidence docs, here courtesy ofCryptome.org: http://cryptome.org/2014/09/manning-002.pdf ]

[ SEE also Timeline from Christine Becker @chrhnk http://www.freemanning.de/?page_id=7203 ]

On 12th August this year notice was given to the military by ACLU and Coombs that the continued failure to provide treatment beyond 4th Sept 2014 would result in the filing of such a lawsuit, and here it now is. A press release issued by ACLU appears in full at the end of this post.

ACLU

DAVID COOMBS’ VOWS TO OVERTURN THIS DERELICTION OF DUTY

Last month, on his blog, David Coombs laid out for us the shameful record of the past four years, and the significant failure of duty of care towards Chelsea from the Army ever since she was diagnosed.

As you will remember, on the day after Chelsea was sentenced, just over a year ago, David Coombs went live on prime US TV with the announcement of Chelsea’s intention to transition to the woman she has always known herself to be. At that point he also announced that he would fight (in court if necessary) for her to receive due treatment for her gender dysphoria. WATCH: here

Prior to this, as the lawyer representing Chelsea during the Court Martial, he had drawn attention in court to the Army’s woeful lack of response to her repeated requests for help with her condition.

Chelsea Coombs on today programme

THE MILITARY AND MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR GENDER DYSPHORIA

Fort Leavenworth, meanwhile, where Chelsea had just begun her outrageous 35 years prison sentence for the whistleblowing that the US authorities decided to prosecute as espionage, had stated that they did not provide such treatment.

“Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation,”

“All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement.

“The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder. “

Although the notorious DADT – ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (whereby it ceased to be actually forbidden for gays to serve in the armed forces but remained forbidden for them to acknowledge or discuss their orientation with anyone) was repealed after 17 years and much protest, and finally ended three years ago this month (Sept 2011), it is still illegal for trans people to serve in the US Military. (NOTE: But see here for the March 2014 report from the ‘Transgender Military Service Commission’ which strongly recommends changing this). Hence, although civilian prisons already provide medical treatment for gender dysphoria, no military prison has so far ever done so.

DADT protest dadt2

 HOPEFUL SIGNS EARLY ON

A year ago, on Sept 25th 2013, David Coombs told law students at Roger Williams University, that, despite this, Fort Leavenworth had brought in an appropriate specialist to assess Chelsea’s needs (as part of her standard healthcare assessment) and that he was cautiously hopeful about the outcome.

He had said on 29th August 2013 that

In the coming weeks, I will go to the USDB to tour the facility and to speak with the chain of command and the medical health professionals.

It is my continued hope that we will be able to obtain hormone therapy and other necessary medical treatment for Chelsea at the USDB.  These requests address a serious medical need of Chelsea and are consistent with the general medical community’s practice of adequate medical care for those with gender dysphoria.

It appears that, following Chelsea’s assessment, recommendations were made re gender dysphoria treatment at the beginning of this year, but have never been acted upon.  In April this year, after a Kansas court made her change of name from Bradley to Chelsea a legal fact, Chelsea told us:

In August, I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they came up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months, I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.

And on 14th May:

At the beginning of 2014, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS and the Army Corrections Command were ready to approve and implement a treatment plan that at least conservatively met the standards set forth by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. I was content with this plan.

Chelsea WPATH 140_banner

TRANSFER TO FEMALE PRISON?

In the clip above (23rd August 2013), the interviewer asks Coombs if the ‘ultimate goal’ is for Chelsea ‘to be in a female population, a female prison?’ and Coombs says it’s not.

However, in May, an unofficial ‘official leak’ (the means whereby US authorities frequently spread goss to the public which might be useful to them without the disadvantage of official acknowledgment) sent the media (no doubt the desired effect) off on the wrong tack entirely.  Associated Press, with the underlying assumption being that this was doing Chelsea a gracious favour, reported:

Pentagon OKs Manning Transfer For Gender Treatment.

In an unprecedented move, the Pentagon is trying to transfer convicted national security leaker Pvt. Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison so she can get treatment for her gender disorder, defense officials said.

This was then widely reported by other outlets with similar emphasis.

David Coombs responded briskly to this in a strongly worded statement, saying, amongst other things:

The military’s refusal to provide necessary medical treatment to Chelsea is flatout transphobia. Rather than deal with the reality that transgenders persons are currently serving in the military, the military would seek to pawn off any responsibilities for these individuals to other entities.

There is absolutely no reason why the Fort Leavenworth facility could not provide HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to Chelsea other than a self-imposed and regressive policy that is based on archaic views of transgender persons as sexual deviants

and then Chelsea herself made it quite clear that a transfer had never been the intention behind her request for treatment:

“I wish to clarify that my request for a treatment plan did not involve any request to be transferred….I don’t understand why the Office of the Secretary of Defense would feel the need to punt this issue by transferring me.”

In any case, by July the Federal Bureau of Prisons had responded with a big no-no so that was that. And it looked as though something might at last happen re the much needed treatment. Associated Press now reported that:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved the Army’s recommendation to keep Manning in military custody and start a rudimentary level of gender treatment, a defense official said Thursday.

Chelsea Chuck hagel images

STILL NO PROGRESS AFTER A YEAR SO WARNING OF LAWSUIT ISSUED

However still absolutely nothing happened, and by August this year, when Chelsea had been at Fort Leavenworth for a year, the ACLU, Coombs and Chelsea obviously decided that enough was enough and it was time to draw a line under the exercise of patient waiting. They issued a warning that unless the military acted by 4th Sept 2014, they would sue for the treatment.

Chelsea explained her position to us in a moving statement headed ‘My Treatment Request – One Year On’ dated 22nd August this year in which she talks of the military ‘paying lipservice’ to her needs:

This time last year I publicly asked that I be provided with a treatment plan to bring my body more in line with my gender identity. Unfortunately, despite silence, and then lip-service, the military has not yet provided me with any such treatment.

Treatment is, as a matter of law, about medical necessity. Such as treating depression or anxiety. But receiving treatment is very important to me as a person. It has a little bit to do with the perception of myself – the sense of unending discomfort with the gender that has been imposed on me – but not out of vanity.

And then, as David Coombs had explained to the Today interviewer a year earlier, she reiterates what it’s about:

Ultimately, I just want to feel comfortable in my own skin.

Like this:

Chelsea image

It’s time, and long past time, for Chelsea’s waiting in limbo to end.

THE FILED DOCUMENTS

READ the court document (memorandum) in full here, (see below for link to other filed docs) which gives a detailed history of what the applicants call the ‘deliberate indifference to plaintiff’s serious medical needs’ and is also very informative (though distressing to read) as it summarises Chelsea’s gender dysphoria suffering from an early age to the present day.

Here’s the ‘Contents Page’ so you can get the flavour of it:

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

CHELSEA ELIZABETH MANNING, Plaintiff v CHUCK HAGEL et al., Defendants.
Civ. No. ____________

MEMO IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

September 23, 2014 Case 1:14-cv-01609 Document 1-3 Filed 09/23/14

Page 1 of 29

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ………..1

FACTS…………1

Gender Dysphoria……………….2
Ms. Manning’s History of Gender Dysphoria and Attempts to Obtain
Treatment in Accordance with Medical Protocols ………………..4
Plaintiff’s Distress and Urgent Need for Hormone Therapy and Permission
to Follow Female Grooming Standards ……………….10

ARGUMENT………………11

I. PLAINTIFF HAS A SUBSTANTIAL LIKELIHOOD OF SUCCESS
ON THE MERITS …………..11
A. Plaintiff’s Gender Dysphoria And Risk Of Engaging In Self-Harm Constitute
Serious Medical Needs For Purposes Of The Eighth Amendment ……………..12
B. Defendants Have Acted With Deliberate Indifference To Plaintiff’s Serious
Medical Needs …………………14
1. Defendants Have Acted With Deliberate Indifference By Failing to
Provide Adequate Treatment For Plaintiff’s Serious Medical Needs…………15
2. Plaintiff Has Been Categorically Denied Hormone Therapy And Other
Medically Necessary Treatment For Non-Medical Reasons
And With Deliberate Indifference To Her Serious Medical Needs…………….20
3. Prisoners’ Medical Care Cannot Be Withheld Based On Pretextual Security
Justifications ……………22

II. PLAINTIFF WILL SUFFER IRREPARABLE INJURY ABSENT AN INJUNCTION…23

III. THE BALANCE OF HARMS STRONGLY FAVORS PLAINTIFF ………….25

IV. AN INJUNCTION IS IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST………..25

CONCLUSION………………26

SEE all filings including the motion, the memo above, supporting statements (from Chelsea, a clinician and ACLU’s Chase Strangio) with evidence docs, here courtesy of Cryptome.org: http://cryptome.org/2014/09/manning-002.pdf

CHELSEA: HUMAN RIGHTS PIONEER AS EVER

And once again, we owe Chelsea a debt of gratitude for being a pioneer in this fight for human rights.

As Chase Strangio, the attorney in the ACLU Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender project and co-counsel on Chelsea’s case wrote in his blogpost – ‘This Is What Happens When the Secretary of Defense is in Charge of Your Medical Care’ – on the ACLU website:

The days of government discrimination in providing healthcare for transgender people are numbered.

It is the bravery of our clients like Chelsea, Andrea Fields, and Ophelia De’lonta who stand up to this injustice that will make the world safer and more just for the rest of us.

NOTE: See also reports from Adam Klasfield at Courthouse News and Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake

HERE’S THE PRESS RELEASE FROM THE ACLU ABOUT THE LAWSUIT FILED

September 23, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – Today, Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia against Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of the Army officials for their failure to provide necessary medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, a condition with which she was originally diagnosed by Army doctors more than four years ago.

The complaint is accompanied by a motion for preliminary injunction demanding that Ms. Manning be provided hormone therapy, permission to follow female grooming standards, and access to treatment by a medical provider qualified to treat her condition. Ms. Manning is currently serving a thirty-five year prison sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas, and though the military recognizes that she has gender dysphoria requiring treatment, critical care has been withheld without any medical basis.

“The government continues to deny Ms. Manning’s access to necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria, without which she will continue to suffer severe psychological harms,”

said Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender project and co-counsel on Ms. Manning’s case.

“Such clear disregard of well-established medical protocols constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

Ms. Manning is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, the ACLU of Kansas and civilian defense counsel David E. Coombs. Last month, Ms. Manning’s legal team sent a letter to the DOD and Army officials demanding that she receive treatment for gender dysphoria in accordance with medical standards of care, including hormone therapy and permission to follow female grooming standards. Her treatment needs have continued to be unmet and her distress has escalated.

“I am proud to be standing with the ACLU behind Chelsea on this very important issue.”

said David E. Coombs,

“It is my hope that through this action, Chelsea will receive the medical care that she needs without having to suffer any further anguish.”

Gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition that requires hormone therapy and changes to gender expression, like growing hair, to live consistently with one’s gender identity as part of accepted standards of care.

Without necessary treatment, gender dysphoria can cause severe psychological distress, anxiety, and suicidality. For this reason, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American Psychological Association have issued policy statements that support providing treatment to prisoners diagnosed with the condition in accordance with established standards of care, as the Federal Bureau of Prisons and many state corrections agencies are already doing.

Manning v. Hagel, et al.»

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