Former hand doctor Michael Brown dies two weeks after suicide attempt


by Jeremy Rogalski / KHOU 11 News & Michelle Homer /

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 11:11 AM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 7:09 PM

MIAMI – Former Houston hand doctor Michael Brown has died after being taken off life support in a Miami hospital, attorney Dick DeGuerin told KHOU 11 News on Friday. 

Brown, who was embattled in legal troubles, had been in the hospital since suffering a heart attack last month. He went into cardiac arrest after taking an overdose of prescription drugs, just one day before he was to start serving jail time for choking a flight attendant.

"This is a real tragedy. He was a brilliant man and for all of his faults, and he had many, he was one of the most generous human beings I ever knew," DeGuerin said.

Houston attorney Brian Wice represented Brown in the assault trial.

"Like anybody who’s human, Michael had his demons," Wice said. "The public didn’t understand Michael to be the charitable, philanthropic guy that he was."

An attorney for Rachel Brown, the hand doctor’s ex-wife, said the former doctor was declared brain dead Thursday night, and he was taken off life support around 9 a.m. Houston time on Friday.

His estranged wife’s attorney said relatives were not notified.

"The family should be given enough notice so that they can do what the family feels they should do under these circumstances," Marshall Davis Brown said.

He said Rachel Brown didn’t want to comment on his death.

"For all the bad things he’s done, he is still the father of her children," said Rachel’s lawyer, Marshall Davis Brown. "It’s a hard time for the family. Anytime somebody passes away, even if there are hard feelings between the people, there’s always the grief that we feel when we lose somebody important in their lives."

Brown’s suicide was the latest chapter in a soap-opera saga that included money, sex, drugs and violence.

The former surgeon was the founder of the Brown Hand Center in Houston, which is now under new ownership. He became a familiar face due to his numerous television commercials.

In 2011, Brown went to trial after Rachel Brown, his fourth wife, claimed he physically assaulted her. He was found not guilty.

The explosive relationship made headlines because it contradicted the "family man" image Brown presented in the commercials featuring Rachel Brown and their children. Allegations that she cheated on him with former Astros star Jeff Bagwell added another layer of intrigue.

In 2002, Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his third wife, Darlina Barone, with a bed post while she was seven months pregnant. He was fined $1,500 and given 10 years of supervised probation.

In 2008, Barone asked for sole custody of their two children and to revoke Brown’s visitation privileges. She told a Harris County judge that her ex-husband had become increasingly erratic and violent, that a history of drug tests showed cocaine and Xanax in his system and resulted in the revocation of his medical license, and that she knew Brown to have driven with their children in the car after drinking and that the children were afraid to visit his home, according to court documents.

After his 2010 arrest for allegedly assaulting Rachel Brown, the former surgeon voluntarily forfeited his parental rights for his children with Barone.

More recently in September, Brown was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison for a disturbance on a flight from London to Miami.

Brown pleaded guilty in federal court in Florida to one count of assaulting and intimidating a flight crew member. He was arrested last January for choking the flight attendant and threatening to strip naked on the transatlantic flight. His attorney later blamed a reaction to mixing alcohol with an insomnia medication.

Brown made a home video years ago that showed him putting a gun to his head.

"I think we put a gun to our head to get attention," he said. "I’m looking and searching and trying to find some other way."

That video turned out to be a chilling prediction of how Brown’s life would eventually end, only this time he used pills instead of bullets.

The legal battle won’t end though. What exactly is left of Brown’s fortune is a contentious issue. A bankruptcy judge has ordered an investigation of millions in possible missing cash. Just how much money Michael Brown may have stashed away is apparently a secret he took to his grave.