McDonalds Made Me Fat!

by | Jan 16, 2003

Aside from the Democrats predictably complaining that President Bush’s tax cut proposal is too pro-rich, the big economic news is that doctors are on strike and McDonald’s isn’t making a dime. It probably doesn’t matter much to Gregory Rhymes that the world’s largest restaurant company is posting its first-ever quarterly loss. Rhymes, 15, of the […]

Aside from the Democrats predictably complaining that President Bush’s tax cut proposal is too pro-rich, the big economic news is that doctors are on strike and McDonald’s isn’t making a dime.

It probably doesn’t matter much to Gregory Rhymes that the world’s largest restaurant company is posting its first-ever quarterly loss. Rhymes, 15, of the Bronx, just wants his money and is taking McDonald’s to court, claiming that the beleaguered burger giant made him fat.

Super-sized at 400-plus pounds and standing only 5-foot-6, Rhymes says he ate at McDonald’s nearly every day, sometimes several times a day, ever since he started first grade — about 3,300 days straight. “I normally order the Big Mac, fries, ice cream and a shake,” Rhymes explained in his affidavit. “I like to Super Size my orders.”

Gregory’s mother, Ruth Rhymes, thinks it’s only fair that her porky kid should now try sinking his teeth into the Golden Arches. “I had no idea that he was destroying his self,” she said in papers filed in Manhattan federal court. “I had no idea.”

No idea! Little Gregory just ran up to bed one night at a nice 90 pounds and — SHAZAM!!! — the next morning he came floating down the steps looking like the Goodyear blimp.

Eight other fat kids in New York have piled on, along with their parents, claiming that McDonald’s is out to deliberately destroy the well-being of a whole generation of children. Two of Rhymes’ hefty co-plaintiffs are the Bradley sisters, Jazlyn, 19, and Shakima, 17, of Brooklyn, weighing in collectively at 485 pounds. Jazlyn told the New York Times that she starts her day with a Super-sized McMuffin and ends it with a Big Mac and apple pie. It’s McDonald’s fault, in short, that the days don’t start in the Bradley house with a good bowl of Total and end with some roasted chicken and broccoli.

A third Bradley sister, Naisia, 13, has joined the suit, saying she often eats twice a day at McDonald’s, both before school and during lunch breaks.

Another plump kid who has jumped on board is a Bronx teen who says he ate at McDonald’s for every breakfast, lunch and dinner during the three years he was living in a homeless shelter.

The lawyer acting on behalf of these outsized teens is Samuel Hirsch. He says people are too dumb to know what’s good for them and that McDonald’s has an obligation to make known that their food is unhealthy, just like they should have warned old Stella Liebeck that it’s not a good idea to get in a car and stick a cup of hot coffee between your legs while you’re trying to get the lid off.

“Nobody thinks that going to McDonald’s can be unhealthy because McDonald’s promotes their food as healthy,” says Hirsch, painting us as a nation of morons. “Young people are not in a position to make a choice after the onslaught of advertising and promotions.”

Short of halting all promotions or switching to a menu of grilled vegetables, I’m not sure how McDonald’s is supposed to fix things. One answer, I suppose, might be to get rid of those drive-through ordering machines and make people come inside to order. Like good bartenders, McDonald’s order takers could be trained to keep a sharp eye out for people who look like they’ve had too much. When someone like Gregory Rhymes rolls in, or one of sizeable Bradley girls, they could be told, nicely, for their own good, “I’m sorry, but I think you’ve had enough.”

Just as it’s unlikely that Gregory Rhymes cares too much about McDonald’s operating in the red, I’d guess that Janice Taylor doesn’t much worry about how skyrocketing malpractice premiums are driving doctors out of business.

Taylor, who stabbed her 4-year-old son, Zachary, two dozen times, is suing her obstetricians and psychiatrists for not sufficiently taming her psychosis. Prior to the attack, Taylor took an overdose of medicine and told neighbors that Zachary was the “Anti-Christ.” The violence left the boy with two punctured lungs, scalp wounds and a severed jugular vein.

And she might win. A North Carolina man, Wendell Williamson, went on a rampage in North Carolina that killed two people and later pocketed $500,000 after successfully suing his psychiatrist for imperfect treatment.

None of this is meant to suggest that physicians don’t make mistakes, like the doctor in Boston who suspended surgery and left his patient on the operating table for 35 minutes while he rushed off to deposit a paycheck before his bank closed, or that physicians shouldn’t be held accountable when they practice bad medicine.

What doesn’t work, however, is an overly-punitive system that expects a home run each time a doctor steps up to the plate. How many ballplayers would stick with the game if they were being sued for anything other than grand slams? Why would a doctor stick with the nuttiest of patients if he’s going to be charged with malpractice when she stabs her son?

Bottom line, bad law isn’t going to produce better meals or safer medicine.

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Ralph R. Reiland is the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

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