Three Breasted Ethics


UPDATE: Snopes, the urban legend and hoax website, now thinks that this is a scam. As I noted in the post, that would not be a surprise and in fact would be a relief. In such cases, I suggest that the post be read as a hypothetical, since the ethics issues raised by the three-breasted woman remain interesting, even if the story itself turns out to be fiction.

A 21-year-old woman being identified with the alias Jasmine Tridevil ( don’t over-think it) says she paid $20,000 to a plastic surgeon to  give her a realistic third breast. She wants to  become a TV reality show star. Jasmine has hired a camera crew to follow her around Tampa, Florida, documenting the challenges she faces as a three-breasted woman.

I know what you are thinking.

I HOPE this is a hoax.

“Jasmine” was rejected by more than 50 doctors who believed they would be violating professional ethical codes. Scot Glasberg, president-elect of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, condemned the surgery as ‘worse than unethical’ and ‘harmful to society’. ‘This violates every ethical principle not just in surgery but in medicine as well. We look to enhance the norm. This is not the norm. Nothing speaks louder than the fact that the surgeon required the patient to sign a non-disclosure form.” Continue reading

Quote of the Week: Joan Rivers




Comedienne Joan Rivers, 81, in her reported final words before expiring yesterday.

Just kidding.

Too soon?

Joan Rivers would rate Ethics Hero status if I did not have a philosophical objection to calling someone a hero because everyone else is a weenie. Yes, Rivers spouted off whatever outrageous, impolitic, offensive thing that materialized in her nimble brain regardless of who it might offend, as long as she felt someone, or a critical mass of someones, would find it funny. That is the proper mindset for any professional comic, but it has become both a rare and dangerous one, as we regularly see comedians grovelling in remorse as soon as sufficient numbers of well-placed critics designate a joke as “insensitive.”

Rivers, whom I can never recall making me laugh for a second, served an important cultural purpose while she was alive, as do Jackie Mason, Mel Brooks and Don Rickles, perhaps the last remaining in-your-face comedians from the days when funny was all that mattered, and careers weren’t ended  by stepping just a little too far over the line, or even a lot too far. Her successors, like Sarah Silverman and Lewis Black, don’t count: they are vicious toward whatever group or groups their audience deems deserving of abuse, and only them. In the end, it is likely that the only clowns with the license that Rivers enjoyed will be animated cartoons, like Peter Griffin(“The Family Guy”) and Homer Simpson. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Joan Rivers

Bear with me, now.

Fight for "Springtime for Hitler," Joan!

Fight for “Springtime for Hitler,” Joan!

Joan Rivers, who took the baton from Phyllis Diller after Diller had proven that women could be funny stand-up comics, and then proved in her own act that women could be funny, gross, and tasteless stand-up comics, is refusing to apologize for her 7, 678, 423rd tasteless joke, uttered on Monday’s episode of E!’s “Fashion Police” regarding the Julien Macdonald that dress model Heidi Klum wore at Elton John’s AIDS Foundation Academy Awards party:

“The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens,” is how Rivers described the German-born supermodel.

Sure enough, the joke, and Rivers, who is Jewish, are being condemned by Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors as being insensitive.The Anti-Defamation League’s director, Abraham H. Foxman, called the joke “vulgar and offensive to Jews and Holocaust survivors.” Rivers is standing her ground. The 70-something comic told The Hollywood Reporter, “My husband lost the majority of his family at Auschwitz, and I can assure you that I have always made it a point to remind people of the Holocaust through humor.”

In the wake of Seth MacFarlane’s various controversies at the Oscars (yes, I thought the John Wilkes Booth joke was funny, especially with the planned comeback, “Too soon?”) and the Onion getting too outrageous in its misconceived tweet using a 9-year-old girl as the prop for a joke about something else entirely,  this is as good a time as ever to seek a consensus on where some ethical lines should be drawn regarding jokes and satire. Continue reading