Brown worked and successively lost permission to practice in Hawaii, Alaska and St Lucia. He then returned to southern California and began an underground practice operating in Tijuana. Most of his patients were trans women who could not afford the going rate in the US (this was before the option of surgery in Thailand was available),
In 1986 a Penthouse Forum piece reported his offering surgical lengthening of penises. The television news magazine Inside Edition followed up with an investigative story on The Worst Doctor in America. Brown actually co-operated with the film crew. In transsexual circles Brown came to be known as 'Butcher Brown', but patients still came. After the broadcast of the Inside Edition program, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation that led to Brown’s spending 19 months in jail for practicing medicine without a license.
After he got out, he restarted in Tijuana, but this time also lived in Mexico. In 1999 he removed the healthy leg of an apotemnophiliac who desired to have it removed. The man died two days later of gangrene in a motel in California. Brown was arrested and tried by the San Diego authorities, even though the operation had been done in Tijuana. He was tried and convicted of malice murder, which means that the defendant does something that is dangerous to human life, knowing it is dangerous to human life and does it anyway. ++He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
He did over 600 mtf sex-change operations over 25 years. Some of his ex-patients are still delighted with his work. Others are not. His fees were considerable lower than those of other surgeons.
The most famous of his patients was Angela Douglas, who had the operation in 1977.
- Bill Callahan. “Ex-doctor who served time faces murder charge”. The San Diego Union-Tribune. May 23, 1998. See below.
- Paul Ciotti. “Why Did He Cut Off That Man's Leg?: The Peculiar Practice of Dr. John Ronald Brown”. LA Weekly. Dec 15, 1999. Online at: www.littlespeck.com/content/health/CTrendsHealth-020118.htm.
- "The World's Worst Sex Change Surgeon: John Brown". Webtv. www.wetv.com/photo-galleries/the-worlds-worst-sex-change-surgeon/index.html.
Ex-doctor who served time faces murder chargeThe San Diego Union-Tribune
May 23, 1998, Saturday
A former San Diego County doctor who served a prison term for bungling a sex-change operation now is charged with murdering a New York man who died of gangrene after his leg was amputated.
John Ronald Brown was ordered held without bail yesterday in a case that has investigators fanning out across the country and Mexico, looking for facts in the grotesque death and clues as to whether others may have been mutilated. “The horror stories coming out about this man’s botched operations are shocking,” said Deputy District Attorney Stacy Running, who added that additional charges may be filed.
Brown, 75, has a lengthy history of medical improprieties that grew out of his specializing in the shadow society of transsexuals and a growing demand for sex-change operations in the early 1970s. Brown’s California medical license was yanked in 1977, and he was sentenced to three years in prison in 1990 for illegally practicing medicine by performing a sex-change operation on a 30-year-old Orange County man. At Brown’s sentencing, the judge said the victim suffered significant injuries that caused pain and suffering.
Yesterday, prosecutors accused Brown of again illegally wielding a scalpel, this time out of his ground-floor unit in a San Ysidro apartment building. Bloody towels, sheets and mattresses as well as anesthetizing drugs were seized from the apartment by National City police Tuesday after they arrested Brown on suspicion of killing Philip Bondy, 79.
Prosecutor Running said police also found “records of hundreds of patients,” as well as graphic videotapes of Brown performing sex-change operations. A search of Brown’s mail found correspondence addressed to “Ronald Brown M.D.” Bondy’s body was found by police May 11 in Room 609 of the Holiday Inn on National City Boulevard. The Medical Examiner’s Office said Bondy died of gangrene from a recently amputated leg. Running told a San Diego Municipal Court judge that Bondy apparently flew to San Diego from New York on May 7 and was operated on by Brown at an undisclosed location two days later.
Investigators are still puzzled over why a man who lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side would come to San Diego and undergo such an operation, Running said after the hearing.
Brown took Bondy to the Holiday Inn after the operation “and gave him no postoperative care other than a few painkillers,” the prosecutor said.
Investigators said Bondy telephoned a friend in New York City, a psychologist whose name has not been released, and asked him to come out to San Diego. The psychologist, investigators said, was told by Bondy that one of his legs had been amputated after a traffic accident in Tijuana. The psychologist flew to San Diego, checked into a room at the Holiday Inn and called police when he found Bondy dead in bed the morning of May 11, investigators said. In Bondy’s room, police found two receipts, each for $5,000 and signed by a John Brown, for surgery and hospital expenses, Running said.
“We think the defendant is an incredibly dangerous individual to the citizens of both the United States and Mexico,” Running told Judge Lillian Lim in her successful request to have Brown held without bail.
Brown apparently had resumed his practice of performing sex-change operations in Mexico and returning the patients to his home in the United States for further treatment, Running said. She said Mexican authorities are cooperating in a widening investigation that includes interviews with former clients of Brown across the country.
Brown’s pale skin contrasted with his blue County Jail uniform, and he appeared frail during his court appearance. He made no comment; his not guilty plea was entered by his court-appointed lawyer.
Running said Brown apparently recruited clients through a Web page on the Internet and advertisements in gay publications. “His clientele is, shall we say, of a different bent, mostly men who want to become women,” the prosecutor said. “Normally there’s a six- or seven- year wait for a legitimate operation, but he would have them fly out and do it over the weekend.”
Several people dressed in female attire appeared at Brown’s 1990 sentencing in San Diego Superior Court in a show of support for his handling of their transformations. Brown’s lawyer then described him “as a leader in transsexual surgery . . . who had perfected a technique of gender reassignment surgery.”
Brown grew up in Arizona and Utah and earned a medical degree in 1947 from the University of Utah. He received surgical residency training at medical centers in Los Angeles, New Jersey and New York City, according to medical records.