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The Doctor Who DIY’d His Own Vasectomy

In 2001, British physician Jonathan Heatley took matters into his own hands and performed a vasectomy on himself. We tracked down the good doctor to see how his vas deferens is holding up all these years later

If you’ve ever felt nervous about getting a vasectomy, rest assured that the procedure is so simple one doctor even snipped himself. In the summer of 2001, Jonathan Heatley, a physician in West Sussex, says he decided to get a vasectomy after “constant pressure” from his wife. At the time, Heatley had only performed three vasectomies in total on other men, but like many other guys worried about their junk, “I only trusted myself to be kind,” he says.

With a nurse and his wife Heather standing by in the event he passed out, he injected his groin with a local anesthetic and made a small incision into his scrotum. Then he cut, cauterized and sealed off his vas deferens, before sewing himself up. The whole affair took about 20 minutes — slightly longer than the 15 minutes of fame he earned for his DIY approach.

It might seem like a weird flex, but Heatley is far from the first doctor to perform self-administered surgery. In fact, a few have taken their appendectomies into their own hands. In 1921, when American surgeon Evan O’Neill Kane was waiting to undergo surgery at his family-owned hospital in Pennsylvania, he decided he’d rather just do it himself. The procedure took about 30 minutes but wasn’t without incident. During it, he leaned too far forward and his intestines fell out. His horrified staff watched as he placed them back in before finishing the job. Then, in 1960, while on an expedition through Antarctica, Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov gave himself an appendectomy because he was the only one available to perform it. 

Given that a vasectomy is easier than removing an appendix, or seemingly basic enough to sell DIY vasectomy kits as gag gifts, it’s almost surprising that other doctors haven’t followed in Heatley’s self-snipping footsteps.

That said, there are complications to consider — for example, says urologist and author Judson Brandeis, body positioning. “The testicle is supported by the cremasteric muscle, which comes off the external oblique,” he explains. “The external oblique contracts when you sit up, and so, the testicle would be pulled up when sitting up to get access to the vas deferens.”

Although it’s still technically possible to cut and cauterize the vas deferens, a doctor might experience “a bleed of the gonadal veins or testicular artery,” Brandeis notes. “This isn’t uncommon and can easily be taken care of, but it would be more difficult if you were doing your own vasectomy.”

Heatley went to work the next day after performing his own vasectomy, and he says that 20 years later, he’s never experienced any issues. “Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” he says. If anything, he suspects that he became the go-to guy in his town for vasectomies because of his willingness to perform one on himself. “I had a lot more clients afterwards as the men felt that if I could do it on myself, I must have a good procedure,” Heatley says. While the 66-year-old continues to practice as a physician, he’s since retired from dicks. “I stopped doing vasectomies after 900 of them.”

To state the obvious, both Heatley and Brandeis agree that the average guy should absolutely not try this at home. “If you didn’t know what you were doing, you could compromise the blood supply to the entire testicle, which would shut down your testosterone production,” Brandeis warns. This might also cause nerve entrapment and post-vasectomy pain syndrome. Not to mention, “the scrotum has the potential to hold a lot of blood,” Brandeis says. “I’ve seen scrotal hematomas the size of a melon.”

So don’t try to be a hero — either endure 10 years of medical school, or the quick, relatively painless 20 minutes of outpatient surgery it will take for a trained medical professional to do the snipping for you.