Dr. Brinkley and his Miracle Goat Testicle Cure
In 1917 Dr. John Brinkley was a factory physician employed by Swift Meatpacking Company in Milford Kansas. It was there that he observed the incredible energy and friskiness of goats before they were slaughtered. Two years later Dr. Brinkley had his own private practice and was treating a local farmer named Sttitsworth, who complained of virility and libido problems. Brinkley joked that the patient needed a ‘goat gland transplant’, at which point Sttitsworth responded, “So, Doc, put ‘em in. Transplant ‘em.” Brinkley thought to himself, “Hey, why not!” Brinkley wasn’t a real doctor. He had bought his medical degree from a diploma mill and was only qualified to practice medicine in a couple of states. Before earning his “degree”, he made his living selling quack medical cures with a traveling group of con men.
Dr. Brinkely went ahead with the procedure and implanted a piece of goat testicle into the farmer’s testicles. He charged a sum of $150 for his services. Roughly nine months later, Sttitworth’s wife had a baby and he began spreading the word of Dr. Brinkley’s miracle cure. Dr. Brinkley opened a clinic offering the treatment for both men and women for the hefty sum of $750. At the time, the yearly average family income was around $1,200. Soon he was implanting entire goat gonads into men and near the ovaries of women. Despite the high cost, his procedure became famous. His highest profile patients included the Chancellor of the University of Chicago Law School and Harry Chandler, owner of the Los Angeles Times.
At his height, Dr. Brinkley owned a mansion with a 16 acre estate, a fleet of Cadillac’s, a yacht, a private airplane, and two radio stations. He also created the National Dr. Brinkley Pharmaceutical Association which sold quack remedies to pharmacies (water with blue dye).
The problem with Dr. Brinkley’s fame was that it attracted the attention of real medical professionals. Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, began writing numerous articles claiming that Brinkley was a quack and a fraud. In 1930, the AMA convinced the state of Kansas to pull Brinkley’s medical certification. Dr. Brinkley actually had the nerve to run for governor twice in an attempt to get it back.
In 1938, Fishbein published the book “Modern Medical Charlatans”, revealing how Dr. Brinkley’s treatment had no basis in science or medicine. At best, the testicles would be recognized as foreign objects and absorbed into the body. Some patients even died from his implants. It was also revealed that Dr. Brinkley conducted his operations in unsanitary conditions, often while intoxicated. Brinkley sued Fishbein for libel, but lost with the jury stating, “Dr. Brinkley should be considered a charlatan and a quack in the ordinary, well-understood meaning of those words”.
The ruling opened a floodgate of lawsuits and judgments against him amounted to $3 million. The IRS began investigating him for tax evasion and the US Postal Service for mail fraud. Brinkley died in 1942, a broken and penniless man.