Famed Thai sex-change doc does it live

Time of article published Dec 10, 2004

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Bangkok - Thailand's renowned plastic surgeon Preecha Tiewtranon performed a sex change operation live on videoconference on Friday before an audience of 35 visiting doctors in Bangkok to attend Asia's first sex reassignment workshop.

Preecha successfully transformed Natanan, a 27-year-old tour guide, from male to female in front of 35 of the world's leading sex reassignment experts, satisfying the patient's lifelong desire to be "a perfect woman".

"We want to show the public that Thailand is now up to international standards in this field," Preecha said in a pre-operation interview.

Preecha, deemed one of the world's pioneers in sex change surgery, has performed at least 3 000 such operations on Asians, Americans, Europeans, Japanese and even patients from the Middle East, helping clinch Thailand's reputation as the medical hub for sex change operations and plastic surgery in Asia.

In an effort to introduce new concepts and refine techniques, Preecha and the BNH Hospital invited 35 leading experts in the field of sex reassignment to a two-day workshop in Bangkok.

Speakers included Drs Stan Monstrey from Belgium, a famed plastic surgeon, Louis Gooren from the Netherlands, an expert on hormonal manipulation and SV Perovic from Yugoslavia.

The seminar focused on surgical techniques and recent innovations such as perineum anatomy, phonosurgery, penile lengthening and endrocrinal treatment.

Preecha hopes the workshop will encourage the Thai government to change local laws that still prohibit sex-change patients from changing their gender on their passports and identity cards.

The US, Europe, Japan have passed legislation making sex changes legal and even China is considering such legislation, said Preecha.

"Even Iran allows sex changes and afterwards the man can become a Miss," said Preecha. "I want to help patients to make the operation more respectful, more scientific and not just commercial."

Thailand's key advantages as a medical hub include a selling combination of low prices and good service.

"The price is cheap, the standard of medical expertise is high and our nursing care and hospital care are world class," said Preecha, citing Thailand's advantages.

Sherri Ann Higgins, 56, who had a sex change with Preecha at BNH Hospital on November 30, said a similar operation would have cost twice as much in the USA.

"And one good thing about Thailand is it's a one-month waiting period," said Higgins, from Pennsylvania. "In the States you have to wait eight months to have surgery."

Higgins, who has a 31-year old daughter, decided to have his sex change surgery in Thailand after flying to Bangkok to meet Preecha and checking out the facilities. He claimed to be happy with the results, after waiting a lifetime.

"I was too scared," said Higgins, explaining his decision to wait until 56 to have a sex change. "I didn't want to tell anyone what I wanted to do, because in the US they're not so accepting, especially in Pennsylavia."

But he expressed no regrets for going through with it. "I want to be me and be happy. That's all," said Higgins. - Sapa-dpa

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