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Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?

Claim:   Letter to the editor by a Mississippi physician criticizes a patient's lifestyle choices.

CORRECTLY ATTRIBUTED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, October 2009]

This should be on the front page of every newspaper in America — in large bold letters. This was a "letter to the editor" in August 29th Jackson, MS newspaper.
 

Dear Sirs:

During my last night's shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite R&B tune for a ringtone. Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid. She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy beer.

And our Congress expects me to pay for this woman's health care? Our nation's health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance. A culture that thinks "I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me". Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Don't you agree?

STARNER JONES, MD
Jackson, MS
 

Origins:   The item reproduced above is one of several Internet-circulated variants of an 23 August 2009 letter to the editor published by the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion Ledger from Dr. Roger Starner Jones, a physician who specializes in emergency medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Jones' letter was printed under the title "Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?" and read as follows:
Dear Sirs:

During my last night's shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos, a very expensive brand of tennis shoes and a new cellular telephone equipped with her favorite tune for a ring tone.

Glancing over the chart, one could not help noticing her payer status: Medicaid. She smokes more than one costly pack of cigarettes every day and somehow still has money to purchase beer.

And our President expects me to pay for this woman's health care?

Our nation's health care crisis is not a shortage of quality hospitals, doctors or nurses. It is a crisis of culture — a culture in which it is perfectly acceptable to spend money on vices while refusing to take care of one's self or, heaven forbid, purchase health insurance.

A culture than thinks I can do whatever I want to because someone else will always take care of me. Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD
Jackson, MS
On 6 September 2009, the Clarion Ledger published a follow-up letter from another reader under the title "Health Care Reform Is Not 'Us vs. Them'":
I've been stewing about an Aug. 23 letter to the editor ("Why pay for the care of the careless?") in which Dr. Starner Jones questioned the worth of a patient to receive Medicaid because of her gold tooth, tattoos, R&B ring tone on a new cell phone, cigarette-smoking and beer-drinking.

This kind of personal attack is nothing new with the hateful rhetoric of late. But it's a real slippery slope when one questions whether another human merits support for health care
because of appearances and choices. There are a lot of folks in this state who make less-than-perfect choices about finances and health. We are the poorest, fattest state, after all.

We need to turn off our TVs and radios and do our own research on health care reform. All the Fox-fed and MSNBC-led masses are out spewing the same language the pundits are using.

Look at entities who, bottom line, want to raise their ratings and celebrity, not facilitate a meaningful or productive discourse.

This country deserves more. Read the health care reform bill. And learn the real issues of our entire community. We're all Americans.

This is no "us vs. them" issue. We are all in this together.

Jennifer Sigrest

Clinton
Dr. Jones submitted another letter to the Ledger which was published (under the title "America Is Still the Land of Opportunity — For Everyone") on 11 January 2010:
I continue to receive numerous phone calls, letters, emails and face-to-face comments about my letter ("Why Pay For the Care of the Careless") which appeared in your newspaper a few months ago.

Most people express highest approval for the opinion set forth. Indeed, the truth has an illuminating quality all its own.

However, a few have disagreed and all of them falsely assume that a person who holds the views which I espouse must have been raised in a privileged home. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I grew up in a lower middle class, single parent home in the rural hill country of Pontotoc, Mississippi. While attending public schools, I paid attention in class and did my homework. I ran with the right crowd and stayed out of trouble. My dedication in school resulted in a full-paid scholarship to the prestigious University of the South in Sewanee, TN. After college, I left to go to medical school with everything I owned in three bags. The rest is history.

Motivation, not entitlement, is the key to personal success and happiness in life.
Last updated:   23 July 2012

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