BodMod

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Doctors who have made the Top Ten Worst Doctors lists: Drs. John R. Brown & Jack Kevorkian​ (police photos).
Others on these lists include: Drs. Christopher Duntsch, Wing-Tai Fung, Larry Nassar & the serial killer Michael Swango.

Dr. Michael Baden wrote the foreword to this riveting true crime tale.
Dr. Michael Baden wrote the foreword to this riveting true crime tale.
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Ward Hall - King of the Sideshow by Tim O'Brien (Casa Flamingo Literary Arts LLC, 2014) chronicles Hall's career and tells of the hard times and the good times and the vital role played by his partner C.M. "Chris" Christ. An interesting topic deals with the decline in the number of sideshows. O'Brien provides three business/economics-related explanations. Contrary to public opinion, political correctness is not to blame. He concludes: "In this world of showbiz impresarios, none have proven themselves to be more successful, enduring or more popular than Ward Hall." An informative read for sideshow buffs.

Tim O'Brien is the author of 13 books, served as senior editor at Entertainment Business for 18 years, and was inducted into the IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Hall of Fame in 2016.

Virginia State Fair
Virginia State Fair

The Most Respected Profession

Vakey Foundation's 2018 survey of 35 nations found that physicians were the most respected professionals. Other surveys have also placed them at the top or close to it.  This positive image is reflected in the numerous movies, TV shows, and novels (especially romance) with physicians as protagonists.

Becoming a physician requires intelligence, common sense, years of study, and a strong work ethic. Many are motivated by a desire to help others and make a difference. My family remembers our general practitioner, the late Dr. Helen Louise (Pierson) Graves Chambers of Columbus, Ohio. She was active in civic organizations and dedicated to the welfare of her patients. One evening, she made a surprise house call to our home because she was concerned about my gravely ill mother. It deeply touched us.

Physicians and the medical establishment have also their critics, a major concern involving deaths attributed to malpractice. A 2016 John Hopkins longitudinal study concluded that over 250,000 people die annually in the U.S. from medical errors and malfeasance, listing it as the third largest cause of death after heart disease and cancer. (STAT analysis projects that COVID-19 takes third place in 2020.) Several articles have presented evidence that problems in reporting and research design (along with fake claims) have inflated the deaths attributed to medical errors, while a few maintain that the actual figure is more than 450,000. Of course, incompetent and corrupt health care providers exist - "bad apples" surface in all professions, including the clergy and law enforcement. Rowena Kleidernhorst Kolbre concluded in the essay "Don't Judge All by One" that those who castigate a group for the actions of a few often are driven by vested interests or are promoting a social or political agenda. T.S. Clarke and others have expressed similar views.

True Crime Books - the Medical Profession
Bad Medicine: Catching New York's Deadliest Pill Pusher
by Charlotte Bismuth - the case against Dr. Stan Li, a respected anesthesiologist who ran a corrupt pain-management clinic on weekends out of a basement in Queens.
Behind the Murder Curtain: Special Agent Bruce Sackman Hunts Doctors and Nurses Who Kill Our Veterans
 by Bruce Sackman, Michael Vecchione and Jerry Schmetterer - an account of catching four serial killers.
Blind Eye: The Terrifying Story of a Doctor Who Got Away with Murder by James B. Stewart - the crimes of serial killer Michael Swango.
Blood and Money: The True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power by Thomas Thompson - winner of the 1977 Edgar Award for nonfiction, about Dr. John Hill.
Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial: The Prosecutors and the Marilyn Sheppard Murder by Jack P. DeSario and William D. Mason - one of several books about this case.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe - winner of the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction & Goodreads Choice Award for History & Biography, an account of the Sackler family making a fortune from sales of Valium and losing their reputation over OxyContin.
Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss - a lawsuit by Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald over this controversial book led the author to settle out of court.
The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down by Abigail Pesta - the rise and fall of Dr. Lawrence "Larry" Nassar.
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber - an account of serial killer Charles Cullen, a registered nurse who confessed to killing 40 patients but is believed to have killed several hundred.
Killer Doctors by Colin Evans - includes Drs. Carl Coppolino, Charles Friedgood, and Bernard Finch.
The Surgeons Wife: A True Story of Obsession, Rage, and Murder by Kieran Crowley - Dr. Robert Bierenbaum & the murder of his wife. Note: The plastic surgeon confessed for the first time to the murder of his wife during a parole board hearing in December 2020.
Twisted: The secret desires and bizarre double life of Dr. Richard Sharpe by John Glatt.
Under the Knife by Karen Roebuck - the Dr. John Christ case.

Rogue Plastic Surgeons & Body Modifications

Plastic surgery allegedly has a greater percentage of rogue doctors than other medical specialties. The following are some of the rogue or off-beat surgeons:

Dr. Windell Davis Boutte, Georgia. Known as the "Dancing Doctor," she made videos showing her and her nurses dancing and rapping while she performed surgery on exposed and anesthetized patients, allegedly often without their knowledge. She posted those videos on YouTube, revealing a disregard of what is considered proper medical procedures. By June 2018, lawyers for seven patients had filed lawsuits against Boutte, one patient suffering a collapsed lung from breast augmentation and another left with permanent brain damage. In August, 2019, she was ordered to pay $190,000 in consumer restitution and Premier Dermatology was prohibited from making false or misleading claims regarding her and her staff's qualifications.

Dr. John Ronald Brown aka Butcher Brown and Table Top Brown, California, a pioneer in the bodmod movement. He was both adored (some calling him the Savior) and reviled by his many transsexual patients, and he had numerous run-ins with the law. Although he claimed impressive achievements in body modification and won the respect of doctors from several countries for techniques he developed, he also left many patients disfigured. Stories circulated of his involvement with mutilation "parties"; his patients waking up in motel rooms and parked cars; and patients dying from his sloppy procedures or experimental techniques. While these deaths concerned law enforcement, evidence remained elusive until a patient suffering from apotemnophilia (a desire to have a healthy limb amputated) died from the amputation. Brown was convicted of second-degree murder, the case against him bolstered by videotapes he had made of his operations. He died in prison in 2010.

Dr. John Christ, Texas. He was obsessed with "remaking" through surgery his thirty-something third wife Carol. He forced her to undergo seven operations over a 15-month period and invited acquaintances to watch them as if they were entertainment. He had previously performed three surgeries on his second wife Gay, who was then in her twenties, and also on at least one mistress. In 1992, when Carol tried to leave him, he shot her in the face and consequently was convicted of attempted murder. She has undergone numerous reconstructive surgeries and reportedly will need operations for the rest of her life.

Dr. Jose Luis Covarrubias, Arizona. In 2007, he pled guilty to replacing a fugitive Jamaican drug dealer's fingerprints with skin from his feet for $20,000. He allegedly admitted to performing this procedure on five patients. The judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison. According to Internet postings, he continues to practice plastic surgery.

Dr. Tomasz Roman Kosowski, Florida. He was charged in the murder of lawyer Steven Cozzi, who was last seen on March 21, 2023. The motive is not known but possibly involved a dispute over insurance billings.

Dr. David Nathanial Michelson, California. His checkered past includes conviction in 1985 for selling prescriptions for controlled substances and selling illegal narcotics, and he consequently lost his license to practice for six years. Then in 1995 he was accused of sexual misconduct with two patients and received probation. He died on March 5, 2021 while awaiting trial, facing 37 counts of sexual assault between 2011 and 2019 involving 15 patients. Reportedly the coroner refused to release the cause and manner of his death.

Dr. Ehab Aly Mohamed, California. He had a lucrative cosmetic surgery practice in Beverly Hill & Encino, claiming to use "cutting-edge technology" and charging up to $650,000 per procedure. The Egyptian national illegally in this country had been convicted of forgery and burglary - the Feds failed to locate him even though he ran ads in the Los Angeles Times and other publications. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years in prison for manslaughter in the death of 61-year-old Sharon Carpenter Nicholson, who had paid him $100,000 for the fatal liposuction, and elder of 77-year-old Zackie Handy, who sustained life-long injuries. Handy had also paid him $100,000 but was offered a $50,000 discount if she took part in a "Harvard study," which was a fake and possibly involved using her for experiments.

Dr. Peter J. Normann, Arizona, his medical degree from St. George's University in Grenada, West Indies. In 2011, he was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter. The three deaths resulted from liposuction and a butt lift. In one of these cases, he contracted an unqualified homeopathic physician to perform the liposuction. Over twenty patients reported long-term complications from his surgery. On appeal, his conviction was overturned on a technicality. In 2016, he was retried and convicted in one death, settled in the other cases, and received 25 years.

Dr. Anthony Pignataro​, New York. He was a prominent plastic surgeon, inventor of the "snap-on" hairpiece. His life changed after the death of a 26-year-old patient during breast augmentation surgery. Ann Rule wrote in Last Dance, Last Chance: "The scene in the surgical area in [Pignataro's] basement was one of horror and chaos. No one who was there would ever forget it." He was found guilty of homicide in the patient's death. After serving his time, he tried to kill his wife Debby with arsenic, which left her with permanent disabilities. Convicted of attempted murder, he was sent to prison and released in 2013. Even though his medical license was revoked, investigative reporters found him practicing medicine in 2017 under the new name of Anthony Haute.

Dr. Richard Sharpe, Massachusetts. A respected millionaire surgeon, he led a double life as a transvestite who liked to wear his daughter's underwear and created weird scenes in front of his young son. In 2000, his wife Karen planned to divorce him after 27 years of abuse. He killed her to avoid a costly divorce.

Dr. El Hassan Tazi, Morocco. The internationally famous plastic surgeon, nicknamed "doctor of the poor," was charged (along with his wife, Mounia, and several employees) on April 2, 2022, with human trafficking, embezzling charity money, falsifying documents, and filming and sharing images of persons without their consent.

Dr. X, the anonymous surgeon (or surgeons) who transformed billionaire Jocelyn Wildenstein from a beautiful woman into Catwoman. Speculation continues as to Dr. X's identity. A few suggested Dr. Steven Hoefflin after he was accused of displaying and mocking his celebrity patients, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, while they were under anesthesia. He denies the allegations and sued his accusers, labeling them jealous rivals. The main suspect remains Dr. Richard Coburn, allegedly at one time Wildenstein's boyfriend. Evidence against Coburn includes claims made by his ex-wife.

One of the controversies involving rogue doctors centers on their treatment of the growing number of patients who are addicted to plastic surgery and/or desire bizarre body modification such as Jocelyn Wildenstein who wants her face to resemble a cat's. She has made tabloid headlines for her numerous surgeries that made her look freaky, inspiring the musical The Bride of Wildenstein; her $2.5 billion divorce settlement; and arrests for domestic violence involving her and boyfriend Lloyd Klein. Wildenstein stated in February 2017 that she has spent $6.5 million on plastic surgery and planned to have more. A year later she allegedly denied ever having had plastic surgery.

Anthropologist Margo DeMello (Encyclopedia of Body Adornment) traces animality - the practice of identifying with and trying to resemble an animal through body modification - to Horace Ridler (1886-1969) aka the Great Omi, an Englishman from an upper-middle-class family who through full-body tattoos, piercings, and filed teeth gained fame as "zebra man." The gamble to transform himself into a freak paid off, and he became one of the wealthiest sideshow performers.

An extreme example of animality is presented by Dennis Avner aka Stalking Cat, a Navy veteran and computer programmer. His radical efforts to resemble a female cat include tattoos, special ears, implanted whiskers, and a mechanical tail, some of the work done by plastic surgeons in Mexico. He was a member of the furry community and imitated select cat behavior, such as eating raw meat. He committed suicide in 2012 at age 54. Although he achieved fame, he was described as lonely and destitute.

In contrast, Eric Sprague aka Lizardman, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, switched to major body modifications to resemble a reptile to kick-start a successful career as a freak. He popularized the split tongue and has appeared at the Jim Rose Circus, sideshows, rock concerts, and on numerous TV shows. His working acts include gavage, fire eating, the human blockhead, and insectivore (eating insects).

The contemporary bod-mod movement encompasses a wide variety of themes, such as attempts to resemble an animal, a jigsaw puzzle (e.g., sideshow celebrity the Enigma), or Barbie. A frequently asked question is "Why?" DeMello cites body dysmorphic disorder as an explanation and suggests it might apply to Stalking Cat and Wildenstein. Others have proposed financial motives (e.g., the Great Omi); spiritual issues and tradition; a reaction to the sterility of the mass society; addiction to surgery; and desire for attention. And some, including persons with advanced education and successful careers, just enjoy it.

Bod Mod in the Headlines, 2022

Brandon Russell, 41, an extreme body modification artist with a "cult-like" following, was charged in Australia with manslaughter caused by an infected silicon snowflake implant, genital mutilation, and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm. He was sentenced in July 2022 to seven to ten years of incarceration.

Anthony Loffredo, 33, wants to become a "black alien." He has numerous implants, and his entire body, including eyeballs, are covered with tattoos. His operations include, among others, a forked tongue, removal of part of his nose and upper lip, and amputation of two fingers she his hand would look like a claw. His surgeries were done in Spain and Mexico, many of which are illegal in most countries. Daily Mail reported on July 25, 2022 that his following on Instagram has grown to 1.2 million and he is contemplating having part of his leg amputated.

"Freedom is not worth having if it doesn't include freedom to make mistakes." - Mahatma Gandhi