Life Is Hazardous To Your Health

By Howard J. Bennett, MD

A few years ago, McDonald’s was sued by a customer who burned her mouth on a cup of hot coffee. Her attorney said McDonald’s was negligent because it didn’t warn people that their coffee could burn them. Ronald and Company now prints the following warning on their Styrofoam cups—Caution: coffee is very hot.

In the spirit of tort reform, we offer the following disclaimers in the hopes that someone will find them useful.

Levi’s Jeans

Caution: Zippers have been known to cause severe pain and dismemberment if closed too quickly against the soft flesh of someone’s unsuspecting genitalia. Do not operate this device if you have been drinking or are under the influence of any prescription medication (or illicit substance) that may alter your judgment or fine motor skills. If you are too drunk to close your zipper correctly, ask a friend to do it for you.

Ritz Crackers

Caution: The surgeon general has determined that eating our delicious crackers may lead to obesity and heart disease. Although it’s unclear which people will succumb to the obscene amount of fat in our product, certain physiologic parameters increase the chances that this will occur. These include, but are not limited to, your genetic makeup, how much you exercise, and your propensity for sitting in front of the TV pigging out on junk food. So unless you want to blowup like a walrus during the mating season, eat this product responsibly.

The New York Stock Exchange

Caution: Investing in the stock market is risky. Well, it’s always been risky, but these days it’s really risky. With all the fraud, conflicts of interest, and corporate malfeasance going on, it’s a miracle anyone besides us makes money. Do not send us any of your hard earned cash unless you are filthy rich, you need a big tax write off, or you want to be sure your children have nothing to fight over after you die.

Food Lion

Caution: Salad bars, while convenient, have recently been found to harbor massive amounts of icky bacteria. If the thought of spending two weeks in bed with the stomach flu leaves you feeling weak-kneed, put down your fork and head over to Wendy’s. On the other hand, if a quick ten-pound weight loss is something you’ve been longing for, stay here and dig right in.

Hamburger Hamlet

Caution: Research has shown that many people do not chew steak completely, especially if they’re eating out and have downed too many margaritas during Happy Hour. In such circumstances, a large chunk of meat may become stuck in a person’s trachea. (This is not where our premium-quality steak is intended to go.) If this occurs, it’s possible that an episode of choking will ensue that is not amenable to the Heimlich Maneuver, even if deftly applied by a physician who happens to be nearby. If for any reason, you think that you are not able to chew and swallow your meat correctly, have soup instead.

Madam Pomphrey’s Celestial Readings

Caution: Although horoscopes are based on a universally revered and ancient study of the heavens, certain members of the scientific community think we’re a bunch of disreputable boobs. Therefore, on the advice of our attorneys, we reluctantly inform you that it’s not a good idea to take our recommendations too seriously. (According to our critics, you should get your professional guidance from friends, family members or, God forbid, psychiatrists.) Failure to heed this advice may result in your being slapped in the face, ridiculed at work, arrested for indecent exposure or, in a worst case scenario, dying because someone’s jealous spouse blows your brains out after mistaking you for a sniveling, overpaid, wife-stealing lawyer.


Caution: Eating highly processed sugar is bad for your teeth. The bacteria that live in your mouth love sugar and reproduce by the billions in such an environment. Therefore, while M&Ms are undoubtedly the most delicious candy ever made, eating this treat may lead to many painful trips to the dentist. Depending on the skill of your practitioner, the ensuing treatment may result in tooth loss, death from the inappropriate use of nitrous oxide, or never getting married because your breath is so rancid a prospective mate would rather spend his or her time shacked up with a moose.

Verizon Cell Phones

Caution: Cell phones emit an electronic signal that has not been fully tested by the FCC. Although the government has given us permission to manufacture and sell these devices, there is a distinct possibility that the electromagnetic radiation produced may cause certain medical problems. Do not use this product if you are concerned about becoming stricken with any of the following symptoms and/or disorders: amnesia, constipation, diarrhea, anorexia, obesity, brain tumors, impotence, promiscuity, hair loss, spontaneous combustion, paranoia, coreopsis, dry mouth, stroke, tics, road rage, blurred vision, a compulsion to eat dog food, swollen ankles, dizziness, hairballs, infidelity, slothfulness, a tendency to think you have experienced something before, déjà vu, gonorrhea, itchy teeth, hiccups, insomnia, delusions of grandeur, phlegmatic personality disorder, jock itch, palpitations, an obsession with Barry Manilow, unexplained buoyancy in salt water, sterility, increased nasal hair.

Celebrity Cruise Lines

Caution: The rainforest is a lush paradise teeming with a wonderful array of exotic plant and animal life. Unfortunately, many of these life forms would like nothing better than to end yours. Do not visit _____________ (fill in name of country on your itinerary) unless you are immunized against all tropical diseases, can survive on nothing but grubs and tree bark for weeks at a time, and have a note signed by your mother.

The Onion

Caution: If you read this paper on a full stomach, be advised that you may aspirate from the convulsive laughter that will inevitably follow. Aspirating foodstuffs can lead to pneumonia, respiratory arrest, and death. Neither the editors nor the publisher will be held libel for any medical misadventures that follow the intellectual ingestion of the material contained herein. Read at your own risk.

© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

(First published in Stitches, The Journal of Medical Humor December 2003.)

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