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TG History — Butcher, John Ronald Brown Part 2

| Dec 21, 2009
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Michelle Moore brings you TG History“I swear this oath by Apollo Physician, by Asclepius, by Health and by all the gods and goddesses: In whatsoever place that I enter I will enter to help the sick and heal the injured – and I will do no harm.” — The Hippocratic Oath

As we saw last month John Ronald Brown was — to say the least —  controversial. Brown had performed his own brand of gender reassignment surgery through the Seventies, all while never troubling to obtain a proper medical license. Though Brown did have his defenders, many transsexuals who received surgery had regarded him as well, a butcher.  Then things got worse.

A series of news exposes followed, including the television newsmagazine Inside Edition which featured Brown in an investigative report titled: The Worst Doctor in America. Brown was shown performing a scalp-flap operation to give a transsexual a more feminine hairline. Unfortunately the patient — who should have been under deep sedation — moaned throughout the procedure, which Brown dismissed on camera as “nothing unusual.”

The San Diego District Attorney disagreed and Brown spent 19 months in jail for practicing medicine without a license. Brown had previously been convicted of prescribing narcotics and practicing under a false name after his license was revoked. But jail terms didn’t deter Brown. “I didn’t like some of the things that organized doctors were doing, so I rebelled,” he said. “Later I didn’t like what the government was doing in support of the medical organizations, so I rebelled. I chose to ignore the laws.” Finally a lawsuit by a former patient, Julie Phillips, helped drive Brown to Mexico. That same year in San Francisco Dr. Paul Walker created the Standards of Care for Gender Dysphoric Individuals during the aftermath of the Julie Phillips lawsuit. Dr. Walker and other members of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association had been instrumental in helping to revoke Brown’s medical license. There’s little doubt that Brown’s butchery played a significant role in establishing the Standards of Care that now determines who has gets access to gender reassignment surgery.


After driving a taxi for a year, in 1992 Brown resumed his surgical practice in Tijuana, posing as “Dr. Ralph Molina” at the “New Woman Surgical Center” while living in San Ysidro, California. One transsexual, Cheree, had visited Brown’s earlier Tijuana clinic but changed her mind after she saw the conditions there. “The sewers overflowed once or twice a day. There was never enough running water or enough bathrooms.” The operating room was an ordinary bedroom with an ob-gyn chair. After surgery, Brown would just grab the patient’s dried, blood-clotted bandages and rip them right off. Sometimes, Cheree said, Brown would sip coffee while performing surgery. “I remember him walking down the hall eating raw weenies right out of the package,” Cheree said. “A fucking package of weenies!”

Butcher Brown

Then on May 11, 1998 San Diego police discovered the body of Philip Bondy alone in his room at the local Holiday Inn. The Medical Examiner’s Office determined that Bondy died of gangrene from a recently amputated leg. At first, a friend of Bondy’s initially told authorities that Bondy had been in a “taxi accident” in Mexico, yet the police were puzzled. Why did the Tijuana police know nothing about it? And why did Bondy have two $5,000 receipts in his room, one for “surgery” and the other for “hospitalization,” both signed by a man named John Brown?

A detective picked Brown picked up at his filthy apartment and brought him in for questioning. “If a child had been living there,” the detective recalled, “I’d have put him in a foster home.” Dressed in a wrinkled shirt and stained jacket, Brown offered to make a “little statement.” It went on for 29 pages. Although the police still didn’t know why Bondy lost his leg they were convinced something illegal was involved. After Brown’s statement, the detective in charge left the interview room to tell his superiors that he was going to arrest Brown.

But after waiting 45 minutes, Brown grew bored and simply walked out of the station and headed home. He had barely gone two blocks when suddenly two police cars and nearly a dozen cops intercepted him. When one officer pointed a gun at his head, Brown looked at the weapon in bewilderment. “All I could think,” Brown later said, “was, ‘What a fucking big gun!'”

The police still couldn’t figure out why Bondy’s healthy leg had been removed but there was one person who had. Three thousand miles away Dallas Denny read of the case and immediately recognized Brown’s handiwork. Denny called Stacy Running, the San Diego prosecutor, and told her assistant about apotemnophilia, a fetish in which an individual is sexually turned on by missing limbs and sometimes wishes to become an amputee. Denny further supplied Running with information that Brown had been performing illegal amputations on apotemnophilics since the ’70s.

Brown had amputated Bondy’s leg in Mexico that Saturday morning. Bondy was happy at first even though he had felt Brown “sawing” on his leg. Since it was also illegal to amputate a healthy leg in Mexico, Brown disposed of the evidence by driving 15 miles into the desert and throwing the leg out the window for the coyotes. Brown then drove Bondy to his room in the San Diego Holiday Inn, where he gave Bondy some lessons in walking with crutches before leaving Bondy alone to fend for himself. Bondy was later found dead. “I saw the phone tipped over,” Bondy’s friend said. “I saw the wheelchair upsided. I saw the sheets pulled out. I touched the top of his head. Rigor mortis had set in. This man did not have a peaceful death.”

But can the authorities actually link Brown to this case or will he go free again?

Next month: The Trial.

The Peculiar Practice of Dr. John Ronald Brown, Paul Ciotti, December 17-23, 1999
The L.A Weekly scored three awards from the Greater L.A. Press Club for this article; Paul Ciotti won first place in Feature Story Competition.
Organ Grinder, Paul Ciotti, San Francisco Metropolitan, March 20, 2000
Murder Case Centers on Amputation Fetish, Randy Dotinga,, Sept. 30, 1999
Out On a Limb, Randy Dotinga, Salon Magazine
How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States, Professor Joanne Meyerowitz
The Tijuana Experience, Dallas Denny, 1992
Dr. Brown Appears to be Back in Business, AEGIS Advisory, June 25,1992
Dr. John Brown: A Surgeon to Avoid, AEGIS Advisory, May 21, 1993
C.A. Upholds Doctor’s Conviction in Botched Mexican Surgery, Kenneth Ofgang, Metropolitan News Enterprise, Monday, August 6, 2001
California Courts of Appeal Reports, PEOPLE v. BROWN, 91 Cal.App.4th 256 (2001) D035066
Information about the Julie Phillips lawsuit courtesy of Susan Stryker. The author gratefully thanks Dallas Denny for her invaluable assistance with this article.

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