Jessica Rabbit Ethics

From Left: Jessica, Pixie Before, Pixie After

                          From Left: Jessica, Pixie Before, Pixie After

Who could have predicted, when “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” opened in theaters, that one of its greatest legacies would be a continuing obsession of young women to emulate her exaggerated, uh, features? Yet here is another example—and there have been quite a few—of a woman mutilating herself in pursuit of looking like the sexy Toon.  Model Pixee Fox—I’m sure that’s her real name—wore a waist-training corset for 24 hours a day and spent $120,000 on various cosmetic procedures including a recent operation to have six of her ribs removed in order to achieve Jessica’s apparent 48-14-40 figure.

“I’ve always been inspired by cartoons and Disney movies, all the curves and tiny waists,” Fox told reporters. “People often, they come up to me and say, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look like a cartoon.’ For me that’s a compliment. My inspiration started with Tinkerbell, but with my transformation, I’ve been starting to look like Jessica Rabbit.”

If you say so, Pixee!  Pixee is ill, it’s fair to say, so the ethical issues fall on the shoulders of  Dr. Barry Eppley, the Indiana surgeon who admits handling Fox’s surgery and also defends it.

I covered this the last time Ethics Alarms covered a wannabe Mrs. Rabbit (Jessica is a human Toon married to a member Leporidae Family). In that case, the happy aspiring Toon looked like this when all was done…

Lips

“When I can afford it I want to enlarge my breasts from a C-cup to a DD, change the shape of my nose and I want to make my ears pointed like an elf,” Kristina Rei said at the time. “It’s good to be different.” As I noted at the time in Kristina’s case (No, I have not checked to see what she looks like now. I am afraid, frankly) the Code of Ethics for plastic surgeons doesn’t give much guidance about when a patient’s desires should be denied. Nor do the medical profession’s ethics rules, which are subject to endless debates about autonomy and what constitutes “harm.” If a patient wants to look like a Toon,  a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloon, a cat or a lizard and will be unhappy if she can’t, is the harm giving in to her (or his) perceived needs or refusing them? Plastic surgeons also have a default  rationalization in such cases: 15. The Futility Illusion: “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

Disgusting as they are, and no matter how large her Chapstick bill is now, Rei’s Thunder Lips are still relatively harmless. Missing Six ribs, though? Eppley claims that the dangers of rib removal are “an urban myth, ” and that  he’s removed even more ribs at the request of another patient.  “It just seems extreme because it is the only plastic surgery other than liposuction [that removes] normal body parts…,”  he says. “In the typical person you’re not losing protections of your organs. I wouldn’t recommend it for an athlete though.”

So he does exercise some judgment, then.

He’s the doctor; if he says that Pixee is safe without six ribs and with a waist the circumference of my upper arm, then I suppose the operation is ethical in the eyes of an ethically dubious profession. My guess is that there’s no way to tell if he is wrong until someone bumps into Pixee and her kidneys pop out her nostrils, or she snaps in two picking a dime off the street. Then maybe his greedy profession might start looking askance at future Jessica-makers.

All right, I’ll say it. This is unethical medical practice, whether the profession has so decreed or not. In fact, I said it before, when I wrote about Sheyla Hershey, once owner of the world’s largest breast implants (size M, supposedly), who had them removed because of serious infections.  American plastic surgeons are prohibited by regulations and their ethics code from using breast implants larger than 800 cc, and her breast expansion required four 800 cc implants in each breast, on a woman who is only 5’2″ tall. (Apparently there is no similar prohibition regarding lips.)

My position was that Hershey never could have given truly informed consent for the surgery, 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. The same would apply to giving a woman a waist that would have made Vera-Ellen look like William Howard Taft. Interestingly, at the time I wrote that  “No American surgeon would agree to make her look like Jessica Rabbit’s bustier sister.”

Well, I was sure wrong about that.

We shall see what happens to Pixie. For now, all we can do is hope she finds the true love with the right rabbit.

More on Pixie, if you can take it…

________________________

Sources: Daily Mirror, Res Ipsa Loquitur, Medical Daily

21 thoughts on “Jessica Rabbit Ethics

  1. There has to be something wrong with these doctors. Even for a relatively simple procedure that has long-lasting consequences (I’m thinking a vasectomy here) the doctor does a fairly extensive evaluation about the consequences (both intended and not) and won’t do anything unless the patient is absolutely aware and convinced of what’s in store. I’d expect for surgery like this you would get at the very least some psychiatric evaluation and counseling.

    • You brought up the exact example of which I was thinking. When my husband and I decided we were done at three children, my husband agreed to make a trip to the urologist. The doctor, in conversation about all of the consequences and the “are you sure(s)?”, mentioned that he didn’t perform vasectomies on men under the age of 40 – for any reason. He felt that an age younger than 40 was simply too young and too soon to make such a permanent decision. My husband was over 40 at the time, but I’ll never forget that conversation. I had a lot of respect for the doctor’s position.

  2. 4 x 800 ccs in each breast? 3200 ccs in each breast. 6400ccs total rack? What’s the maximum displacement of a Formula One car that produces 1400 or so horse power? 1.8 liters? 1.2 liters? I forget. 6.4 liters is the displacement of a modern day muscle car. In a woman’s chest?

    Unethical. The things speak for themselves.

    ps, I had a rib taken out because of a benign cartilagenous tumor. No fun. This woman doesn’t need a plastic surgeon, she needs a psychiatrist.

    Plastic surgeons are as great a pox upon our house as political science graduates.

    • I agree for a vast majority of plastic surgery. When I see people like Ms Fox, or think about the late Joan Rivers or Michael Jackson, I have to believe that those kinds of changes to shore up vanity/narcissism are an endless loop and cannot fix the underlying issues. They just put the customer into needless health risk for excess costs/profits. I won’t call them patients because the attitude is more like a motor-head getting a chrome exhaust. But a patient is not the same as a customer!

      Now there are valid uses for for plastic surgery, like birth defects and after injury. But the loosening to allow nosebobs has become a slippery slope where anything goes if you have the money. The before shot with her now-missing ribs ‘ruining’ her waistline leave me queasy. (Wearing the Wonder Woman logo when the amazon would severely disapprove of surgical mutilation to please the male patriarchy, makes a bitter irony) Cartoons are caricature not something to become with a knife.

      • Every time I see news about successful face reconstructions and even face transplants, my mind immediately jumps to memories of the 1976 movie, Logan’s Run. I am grateful for today’s “face-makers,” as I am sure their patients are also, in most cases.

        But, beyond dire need for reconstruction in cases of what 99.9999999999 of the human race would say is grotesque deformation or disfigurement, the industry of “looksism” is too enabling of narcissism at the present time. I am disfigured as a result of surgeries; as for whether I look “grotesque,” that is in the eye of the beholder. If I thought it would be a worthwhile gift to my wife, I might consent to a touch-up. But, there is NO WAY I will have my disfigurement corrected out of selfish desire to obscure “ugliness.”

        Back to the movie: Society needs to institute a “Carousel” event for chronic seekers of plastic surgery – perhaps in a three-strikes-and-you’re-out model – until and unless the patient becomes qualified to perform all procedures DIY-style.

        • Honestly, in my last sentence above, I meant to begin with “Perhaps,” with thought (only gently and modestly tongue-in-cheek) of stretching the ethics discussion along a “treatment” continuum that includes assisted self-mutilation (which includes in my view at least some tattoos and piercings) and assisted suicide.

  3. There is a disorder called “Body Integrity Identity Disorder” (BIID) where people feel that their body should be disabled, and their answer is to become blind, amputate limbs or induce paralysis. Sometimes they attempt to mutilate themselves, but quite often they feel comfortable seeking medical advice. Doctors struggle with the ethics of this, BIID doesn’t have a recognized treatment, so if the patient isn’t mutilated, they will most often feel absolutely miserable trapped in their own skin for the rest of their life, On the other hand: Do you amputate a healthy limb to treat a neurological disorder?

    From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19132621

    “on the one hand the principle of autonomy is used to deduce the right for body modifications; on the other hand the autonomy of BIID patients is doubted. Neurological results suggest that BIID is a brain disorder producing a disruption of the body image, for which parallels for stroke patients are known. If BIID were a neuropsychological disturbance, which includes missing insight into the illness and a specific lack of autonomy, then amputations would be contraindicated and must be evaluated as bodily injuries of mentally disordered patients. Instead of only curing the symptom, a causal therapy should be developed to integrate the alien limb into the body image.”

    Now I’m not a doctor, but the parallels between this case and a BIID case seems pretty strong. And BIID has some obvious and medically recognized parallels to transsexuals with non-chromosomal disorders. And then to go one step further, what about the Michael Jacksons and Rachel Dolezals of the world?

    At what point does an innately unethical practice (selective plastic surgery) become an ethical medical practice? Or does it ever?

    • Or is the debate one step more abstract, where do ethical lines form in the debate between: accepting what nature has given you vs adjusting what it has given you to your own liking?

      • I struggle with this topic, I wonder sometimes if we aren’t treating someone who sees imaginary bugs crawling on their walls by fumigating their house. That said, I’m not sure it’s as simple as you put it, and perhaps unfair to expect someone with a neurological disorder to have the kind of self-awareness and control that acceptance would require. It strikes me like telling someone with tourettes to just stop.

        • I would definitely consider neurological or psychological disorders on the same side of the line as illnesses: something nature gives you that you should try to modify for the better.

          The question, though, with a psychological disorder that severe, as you attest to, is: should the solution be give the patient what they think they need or give the patient what they really need…confounded further if we don’t know what the patient really needs.

          • And of course perpendicular to this continuum we discuss is the societal continuum that decides what is “beautiful”. Certainly there is nothing wrong with deciding what is “attractive”, the question is, does a culture become unethical when it narrows that definition to unattainability, it certainly starts becoming unethical when it changes its behavioral attitudes towards those on the edge or outside of those definitions.

            I say the continua cross each other because I feel that if, as a society, we didn’t constantly narrow the definition of beauty on the one axis, we wouldn’t be finding so much of the demands on the other axis to allow for altering that which nature gave us.

          • I appreciate the sentiment… But I’m kind of at the end of the line. I don’t know what the answer is.

            If we have a patient that believes something, believes it very strongly, to the point where the fact that their lived experience is depressing the patient to the point of suicide, and we don’t actually have a treatment for the psychosomatic symptoms, is it wrong to treat the disorder with a surgery that makes the patient less physically whole, but more mentally whole? I think that’s the kind of ethical conundrum that doesn’t have a good answer. What if we find a cure the day after we paralyze someone from the neck down? Who cares for that person? Does insurance cover it? And lets say that trans-sexual and trans-racial people are on the same spectrum…. Do we have a duty to accept their neurosis as fact?

            IS that person black? IS that person white? IS that person better off disabled? IS that person a woman? IS that person a man? I just don’t buy it. I mean… It’s more polite to use someone’s preferred pronouns or refer to them as they want, but I don’t think that a person is a horrible pile of garbage that needs to be ostracized, fired, and perhaps shot for not participating.

            And just to muddy it further: If we found a substance that “cured” these body image disorders, should we require someone to take them? How much duty does someone have to conform to what we feel is normal? What if we cured other abnormalities?

    • There is a disorder for everything these days. Perhaps we could just have RSPD (Rational Sensible Person Disorder) for the few of us left and just call everyone else ‘normal’?

  4. She was beautiful in the first picture.

    We stocked our weekend house with sixties furniture, including sixties magazines. It is striking how natural and beautiful the models look. Their noses are not carved up. Their figures are not inflated as if they are porn stars. Their make-up is fairly minimal and their out fits are fairly demure. (Of course, the Marilyn Monroes and probably Sophia Lorens of that time were already being surgerized and sporting un-attainably fine noses, etc., but at least it wasn’t ubiquitous in industry and the general population and culture.)

    The carnage wrought by plastic surgery is awful. I don’t think anyone can get a job in modeling or movies without it. It really is epidemic.

  5. It’s one thing to be dealing with a mental disorder that leads you to imagine you are something that you are decidedly not- a cartoon character in this case. It’s quite another to have your deranged fantasies augmented by some latter day Doctor Moreau, who desecrates your body for money. Desecration, not surgery. No physician who debases his profession in such a manner should be allowed to do so much as empty the waiting room ashtrays in a hospital, much less practice in one. Any hospital that allots its facilities to such things should keep its certification. Pure sickness of the soul.

    • Good point on the rib removal but I think most of these guys do their “work” in their own “surgicenters” as out patient procedures. (Extra income stream, you know.) So maybe the hospitals have less control than they should. It does make you wonder about the efficacy of the licensing boards though.

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