Sheyla Hershey’s Mega-Breasts and the Ethics of Assisted Self-Destruction

The current bicycle ordeal commenced by the Vogel family was sold to the family’s twin boys as a chance to get into the Guinness Book of Records. That publications has been used to justify more self-destructive conduct than the complete works of Ernest Hemingway, and here’s another example: Sheyla Hershey, owner of the world’s largest breast implants (size M, supposedly) according to Guinness, just had to have them removed because of serious infections. They were also “uncomfortable,” she has told reporters.

Gee, who could have seen that coming?

Hershey’s story  is a good rejoinder to those who say that anyone should be able to do whatever they want to themselves and their bodies no matter how foolish or dangerous. American plastic surgeons are prohibited by regulations and their ethics code from using implants larger than 800 cc, because more than that is considered doing more harm than good. This wasn’t even debatable in Hershey’s case, as her breast size required four 800 cc implants in each breast, on a woman who is only 5’2″ tall. If one’s laissez-faire approach to free will and ethics argues, as some do, that by definition what a patient wants cannot be “harm,’ and that a professional is never being unethical doing what a fully informed patient says she wants, then this is the acid test. Hershey never could have given truly informed consent, because she couldn’t possibly know what was in store for her once she began carrying around breasts the size of beach balls and the weight of bowling balls. What turned out to in store for her was a virtual double mastectomy.

She is accountable for her own foolish choice, of course. No American surgeon would agree to make her look like Jessica Rabbit’s bustier sister. so she went to that paradise of the sexually uninhibited and lopsided, Brazil, to get pumped up, and paid an unethical doctor to do the equivalent of amputating a healthy leg, but worse. That doctor, learning of her dire straits now, will certainly shrug and say, “Don’t blame me! I just gave her what she wanted!” It is the same justification we hear from drug dealers, steroid distributors, casinos, term paper mills, prostitutes, Ashley Madison,  and countless others who are eager and willing, for a fee, to help people hurt themselves, and sometimes others.

It is true that some individuals who are foolish, reckless or unhinged will  find a way to hurt themselves no matter what we do, but that is no reason to push them along in their trip to destruction. Taking money to do it is wrong in itself. So is encouraging it by publishing “records” that can only be achieved by risking long-term harm.

4 thoughts on “Sheyla Hershey’s Mega-Breasts and the Ethics of Assisted Self-Destruction

  1. Great take on the unethical role of “world record” entertainment. It is akin to high school kids yelling, “fight, fight, fight,” when two kids start to get into it in the lunch room, or bystanders yelling “jump” at a man standing on the ledge of a tall building. The current brands of reality TV come to mind as well!

  2. Slightly related: is Jackass also unethical (another example of people hurting themselves for money)? I confess, I see it on TV every six months or so, I end up watching it, and I laugh.

    • Me too, though sometimes I’m ashamed. They’re stunt men, essentially…it’s a living. They are modern geeks, in the classic sense. I think they make voyeurs out of us sometimes, but nobody’s fooling them; I don’t think they are ill, at least not like the desperate ex-celebrities who sell their humiliation on reality shows. They are professional stunt guys who pretty much know what they are doing and have a high tolerance for pain. They are like hockey players, wrestlers and football players.

      The time one of the “Jackass” guys put a hook through his cheek and had a boat tow him through shark infested waters as bait was over the line, though. I don’t quite know which line, but it was over it.

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