2nd Ramsay Suicide: Time to Limit Bullying?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 30, 2010 7:03 AM

This week it was reported that a second chef to undergo the famous Gordon Ramsay treatment has committed suicide. The body of restaurateur and chef Joseph Cerniglia was found in New York's Hudson River after numerous 911 calls reported a man who had jumped from the George Washington Bridge. The New York coroner's office has confirmed the death was a suicide.

The first Ramsay contestant to commit suicide was caterer and personal chef Rachel Brown, who was found shot dead in her home in Dallas in May of 2007, according to BuzzTab.com. The deaths of the two chefs may have something more in common than just the fact that they were tragic suicides. Both deaths occurred after coming under the fire and abuse that is Gordon Ramsay TV.

At this juncture, no one should look for legal responsibility to be placed on Ramsay, no matter how harsh the treatment of both Rachel Brown and Joseph Cerniglia was. In addition, it has been reported that Cerniglia was struggling under a large debt load at the time of his death. However, the deaths of two people after participating in shows where the entertainment factor was based on how they survived the full frontal bullying of Chef Ramsay should, at minimum, bring up questions.

A possible similarity might be found in the numerous cases of teenage bullying that resulted in suicide. One well publicized case was that of Phoebe Prince, a Massachusetts teen who took her life after classmates bullied and taunted her online and in person. Due to incidents like that and others, many states have taken bullying and cyberbullying more seriously and have enacted laws specifically prohibiting it. In addition, some laws have penalties for a failure to report or act on a case of known bullying.

Clearly, the two types of bullying are different. A teenager hoping for acceptance from peers is more fragile than an adult. In addition, adults such as Cerniglia and Brown signed onto shows where they were most likely aware that Ramsay's brutal treatment was the key ingredient for good TV. Perhaps they even signed waivers to that effect. But in 2009, the state of Massachusetts considered a law to prevent workplace bullying, so perhaps even grown-ups need protection from this type of treatment.

After the deaths of two people, one with children, is it time to ask what next steps bullying laws need to take? Should we go ahead and extend them to adults, or is it every man for himself in the real world and on reality TV?

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