John Ronald Brown

John Ronald Brown

John Ronald Brown (born 1922) is a former United States surgeon who was convicted of second-degree murder after a patient died while Brown was practicing medicine without a license.

Early life

The son of a Mormon physiciancite journal
last = Ciotti
first = Paul
title = The Peculiar Practice of Dr. John R Brown
journal = Los Angeles Weekly
date = 1999-12-15
accessdate = 2007-05-10
] , Dr. Brown was born in 1922. He did well in school, graduating from high school by the age of 16. When drafted by the US Army during WWII, he scored exceptionally highly on the General Classification Test, with the result that the Army sent him to medical school.

Brown graduated from Utah School of Medicine in 1947, and worked as a general practitioner for almost two decades. However, after almost losing a patient during a thyroidectomy, he decided to undertake formal surgical training.

Despite excelling in the written aspects of certification for the American Board of Plastic Surgery, he failed the oral assessment (blaming his 'domineering' father). However, rather than see this as an obstacle, Brown decided to carry on regardless.

Later Medical Career

By the early 1970's, Brown was carrying out Sex reassignment surgery on Transsexual patients . Most of his patients were transsexual people who were too poor to afford the fees of reputable surgeonscite web
last = Spiegel
first = Rachel
title = Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History
accessdate = 2007-05-10
] . Others were former patients of the university based units at Stanford University and Johns Hopkins Hospital that offered transsexual treatment during the 1960's. Only a small minority of patients could meet their exceptionally strict criteria for surgery. Brown, by contrast, freely admitted that he was willing to operate on anybody who would pay him. In 1977, following the death of one patient and a law suit from another, Brown's medical license was revoked by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance. , for "gross negligence, incompetence and practicing unprofessional medicine in a manner which involved moral turpitude". The charge of gross negligence was based on his practice of carrying out sex reassignment surgery in his office on an out-patient basis, rather than in a fully-equipped surgical theatre. He was also charged with allowing patients to work as unqualified, medical assistants (allegedly as barter for their own subsequent surgery), failing to hospitalize a patient who had developed a life-threatening infection and making false claims on medical insurance forms. Brown continued to practice medicine outside of California, but was successively barred from practicing in Hawaii, Alaska and the island of Saint Lucia.]

During the 1980s Brown began soliciting and advertising surgical services in the USA. [cite episode
title = World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon Channel 4 UK
series = 2007-04-09
] whilst performing surgical procedures in Mexico. In 1986, an article in the magazine Forum reported on his procedure for surgically increasing penis length. This article and a subsequent television documentary ("The Worst Doctor in America") portrayed Brown as an incompetent and inept surgeon. His poor reputation eventually gained him the nickname "Butcher Brown" amongst the transsexual community. Despite this, desperate individuals continued to seek him out.

In 1990, Brown spent 19 months in prison for practising medicine without a license. The charge came after Brown operated on a thirty-year old male-to-female transsexual from Orange County, California.] . After leaving prison, Brown worked as a taxi driver for a year before re-establishing himself in medical practice.

Murder Charges

On May 9, 1998, Brown performed a leg amputation on Philip Bondy, a 79 year old, retired satellite engineer from New York, in Tijuana, Mexico . Bondy was one of the rare individuals suffering from Body integrity identity disorder or 'apotemnophilia' - a desire to have a healthy limb amputated. Very few reputable surgeons are willing to treat this disorder by carrying out such an amputation.

A short time afterwards, Bondy was found dead, in a National City, California hotel room, by a friend - a fellow apotemnophiliac, who had backed out of having surgery with Brown at the last moment. An autopsy showed he had died of gas gangrene. In the subsequent trial, a surgeon who was a witness for the prosecution testified that Brown had not left a large enough skin flap to properly cover the bone and stump. The flap was stretched too tightly to allow adequate blood flow and the tissue in the flap died, allowing an infection of Clostridium perfringens and producing gangrene.

A police search of Brown's premises - a ground floor unit in a San Ysidro apartment building - revealed blood soaked towels, sheets and mattresses, as well as anaesthetizing drugs. Police also discovered video tapes of Brown's operations.

Brown was prosecuted in California for second-degree murder - an unusually severe charge in medical cases. To make the charges stick, the prosecution had to establish that Brown had a history of incompetence and recklessness. A number of transsexual women gave testimony of their experiences of Brown's treatment and subsequent medical history.

Brown was convicted by unanimous decision and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison.


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