Penn Doctor Makes Fat Jokes

Thing is, no one's laughing.

I know someone who’s having a bad day: This guy—Penn orthopedic surgeon John D. Kelly IV. He writes a column in an industry publication called Outpatient Surgery Magazine, published in Malvern, and in his August article he made all kinds of jokes about obese patients. For whatever reason, people are just now getting wind of it. And guess what?

People. Are. Pissed.

I actually stumbled on the story circuitously, after clinking a link on Penn’s site about about breast cancer treatment. That’s where I found this, an official statement from the powers-that-be saying that the “Health System was shocked to read the article…and wants to make it clear that [Kelly’s] misguided attempt at humor, while done on his own time, does not in any way reflect our views or values.”

So of course, I Googled. I came up with a blog post from last Thursday on a site called Former Fat Dudes!, in which blogger Rob Portinga, a former gastric bypass patient, lays in to the Penn doctor.

I’m not sure if it’s in jest or not, but there is a blurb attached to the print article that suggests he moonlights as a stand-up comedian… I know I wouldn’t want him for my doctor.

In fact, it is true that Kelly does some stand-up comedy on the side, performing at venues in Wildwood and Newtown Square. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

I tried finding the original article on Outpatient Surgery’s website, but poof—it’s gone. No reference to it whatsoever on the August 2011 issue archive page. According to the Inquirer:

[Editor-in-chief Dan] O’Connor – who declined to comment for this article – refused to take the August column off the magazine’s website until four days ago, despite pressure from activists and Penn. O’Connor also sent letters warning activists not to reproduce or link to the copyrighted material lest they face a lawsuit.

You can still click through to the read the story from Portinga’s website, so apparently he didn’t get the memo. (FYI should you dare to click over: Once you’re at Outpatient Surgery’s site, you have to sign up for a free Web subscription to read the full article.)

At any rate, yikes, right? Portinga interviewed Kelly on Monday to talk about the article. The doctor offered a mea culpa:

I used one liners I accrued over the years in comedy to make ‘light’ of the situation. I used very bad judgment and never intended to offend. I think I was running up against a deadline and threw some jokes together in order to get a few laughs.

What he got, though, was an inbox full of complaints. Tough break.

What do you think? Was Kelly wrong to make light of obesity? Or are people blowing this way out of proportion? Leave your thoughts in the comments.