A year ago I received an email with an attached letter titled “Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?” by Dr. Starner Jones and then with a message to pass it on if I agreed. Well for one I didn’t agree and thought it might be a fake written by some disgruntled conservative because they oppose President Obama’s Health Care Plan and it ended up in the trash bin. Since then it has circulated around Facebook with a picture of Dr. Starner Jones. After seeing it a few times this week posted by nearly two dozen “friends” on Facebook I decided to look it up on Snopes. Turns out that the letter is not a fake but an actual letter written to the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger. The letter reads as follows:
During my shift in the Emergency Room last night, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient whose smile revealed an expensive shiny gold tooth, whose body was adorned with a wide assortment of elaborate and costly tattoos, who wore a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and who chatted on a new cellular telephone equipped with a popular R&B ringtone.
While glancing over her patient chart, I happened to notice that her payer status was listed as “Medicaid”! During my examination of her, the patient informed me that she smokes more than one pack of cigarettes every day, eats only at fast-food take-outs, and somehow still has money to buy pretzels and beer. And, you and our Congress expect me to pay for this woman’s health care? I contend that our nation’s “health care crisis” is not the result of a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. Rather, it is the result of a “crisis of culture” a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on luxuries and vices while refusing to take care of one’s self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. It is a culture based in the irresponsible credo that “I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me”. Once you fix this “culture crisis” that rewards irresponsibility and dependency, you’ll be amazed at how quickly our nation’s health care difficulties will disappear.
STARNER JONES, MD
First let me say that I was quite amused at some of the people who posted this to their Facebook wall and then asked others to “share” it when they themselves have been on Medicaid or some type of government assistance in their life. Several of them were on Medicaid due to life choices, like pregnancy, bankruptcy due to credit card debt or walking off a job, while others had recieved government benefits just due to unfortunate life circumstances. To me it doesn’t matter why they are on Medicaid, but it seems a bit hypocritical to be opposed to government health care when you yourself have utilized and at the same time while on it, were making life choices that included some of the things mentioned in the above letter by Dr. Starner Jones.
The first time I read Dr. Jones’s letter I thought this was racist, and now a year later, I still think that. By the description in his letter of the patient he is describing a stereotypical southern black person. I like he adds in the letter that the patient’s ringtone was R&B music. Did it really matter what kind of musical ringtone she had? Who is to say she got the tatoos while on government healthcare? She could have gotten them as a gift or before. As for her shoes, how do you know she purchased them? or that the phone is paid by her? It could be being paid by a thoughtful and loving relative. As for the conversation he had with the patient, I believe it is probably exagerated. Especially since the report I pulled up on Dr. Starner Jones gave him a ONE STAR on time spent with patients. Hard to believe that a doctor who has complaints on the Internet for spending few minutes with the patient and not listening to them would have spent all that much time with this tatoo, R&B listening, cigarette smoking woman he describes in his letter.
Right now, I am saying a prayer to God above that I never have to go to the ER in Jackson, Mississippi because I do not want Dr. Starner Jones as my attending physician. Frankly it sounds like he is more concerned about judging the patients than treating them. Maybe he needs to re-read the Hippocratic Oath instead of worrying about where a patients shoes came from or about the cost of their tattoos. Dr. Starner Jones, you sir need a lesson in humility and compassion.
There is no doubt there are those who will take advantage of the system, but for every one person there are many more who do not. You really can’t judge a person on how they dress and determine whether or not they are deserving of government assistance. Someone may have given them clothes, they may have been purchased at thrift shops or yard sales, or obtained before they got on assistance. As for cell phones, again you do not know if they are paying for the phone or someone else. How they obtained the phone is really not our business. Owning a cell phone should not disqualify someone from getting help, even the newest snazziest cell phone there is. I have a $400 phone that only cost me $9.99 for renewing my contract. Not to mention owning and paying for a cell phone is cheaper than having a home phone.
Of the Facebook friends who have reposted this letter by Dr. Starner Jones each one claims to be a Christian. I find this disheartening to say the least. For one, the Bible mentions poverty over 2000 times and says over and over again about servicing the poor, caring for the poor, and feeding the poor. Just yesterday the poverty level in America is one of the highest of our generation. Hardworking people are barely getting by, have lost their jobs, and are living literally hand to mouth. None of us are immuned. I personally know families who had six figure incomes now living on 1/3 of the money they were before the recession. Many families cannot afford health insurance. We personally pay over $500 a month for health care coverage and its adequate at best. Have some compassion, quit your judgment, and ask yourself what the Bible and your God tells you to do when it comes to the poor. And while I am sure someone will post in the comments about personal responsibility, keep in mind that as a Christian we are supposed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ – who didn’t judge people’s worthiness based on if they worked or not, what they were, or where they came from.