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09 April 2016

Benito B. Rish (192? - 2007) plastic surgeon

Benito Rish became licensed to practice in the State of New York in 1949. He was mainly a plastic surgeon, and became known as a urologist and for his rhinoplasty and other facial surgery. He worked at Yonkers Professional Hospital, 27 Ludlow St, Yonkers, NY, and in time became a part-owner of the hospital. Among other responsibilities he became president of its board of directors, chief of plastic surgery and head of the Gender Identity Center.

Both Harry Benjamin and Leo Wollman referred patients to Dr Rish for genital surgery. These included Erica Kay in 1968; Liz Eden and Puerto Rican Soraya Santiago in 1973; Mario Martino in 1977.

Dr Rish was also known as willing to sell female hormones without a prescription, if you looked trans. It is said that Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and International Chrysis used this service.

In 1971, Debbie Hartin spoke about her problems with ‘her family, her neighbors and her daughter’ at a meeting that was supposed to be the inaugural meeting of Transsexuals Anonymous held at Dr Rish’s office.

That same year Dr Rish was named to the advisory board of Reed Erickson’s EEF, and was subsequently on the list of surgeons sympathetic to transsexuals issued by EEF.

Dr Rish was sued for malpractice in silicone injections in 1972; for surgery in 1973 and again in 1974. In 1985 he was sued re a 1977 rhinoplasty and subsequent injection of silicone into the nose.

In 1980 Yonkers Professional Hospital was closed after a surprise state inspection, stood empty for almost a decade, and was then converted into apartments.

Dr Benito Rish went into partnership with Canadian Sonia LaFontaine as the Lafontaine-Rish Medical Associates. LaFontaine and her husband, Arthur Kissel, also ran a clinic in Toronto. In 2000 LaFontaine and Rish were taken to court charged with hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraudulent insurance claims. As the New York Daily News put it:
“Lafontaine herself, who has no formal training as a doctor, is charged with performing hundreds of procedures at the now-defunct clinic, from silicone lip enlargements to vein treatments”.
The most serious charge concerned an overweight Jersey City man who went for liposuction in January 1998 in the hope of becoming a New York cop. He died from complications due to anesthesia. The anesthesiologist, who already had a suspended license because of a morphine addiction, quickly surrendered her license. Dr Rish pleaded guilty to insurance fraud, admitted to allowing two unlicensed individuals to perform under his name, and surrendered his license.

Kissel was arrested in Toronto for working illegally in Canada. He appealed his extradition to the US in every way that he could, and was not tried in New York until 2009, by which time his wife had completed her sentence. Dr Rish had died in 2007.

Yonkers Professional Hospital

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The trans persons whom we know had surgery with Dr Rish are not reported as complaining.

Are we discussing a one-time good doctor whose standards slipped over the years?

All-right, I will say it.  There is a question hovering about Dr Rish.   We know that two of his non-surgical patients died young:  Candy Darling in 1974 at age 29, possibly of side effects of taking the wrong hormones;  International Chrysis in 1990 at age 39.   Was Chrysis still a patient of Dr Rish in the 1980s after the Yonkers hospital closed?  There is no indication of that in Ellen Fisher Turk's docuemntary.

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