A fake doctor who slices off goat testicles and inserts them into the scrotums of men looking to restore their desiccated virility? A fake doctor who grows fabulously wealthy from the hordes lined up outside his door, despite the fact that his surgery causes blood poisoning, loss of limbs, and even death? Preposterous! If Charlatan were a novel, it would be a satire. If it were a play, it would be a farce. But it is history, and we must ruefully own up to it as our legacy. If we try to tell ourselves that nowadays we are far too enlightened to succumb to such quackery, we are as fraudulent as the "surgical swami" himself. After all, how different are Botox injections, the same toxin that causes botulism, from goat glands? John Brinkley's story promises to tell us much about the modern confection of advanced knowingness and undaunted gullibility, not to mention our ...
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