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Dr. Roger Starner Jones on U.S. Health Care Crisis

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Doctor using digital tablet in hospital
CZQS2000/STS/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Viral op-ed piece by Roger Starner Jones, M.D., an emergency room physician in Jackson, Mississippi, says America's health care problems are due to a 'crisis of culture,' not a shortage of quality medical care.

Description: Viral op-ed / Forwarded email
Circulating since: Aug. 2009
Status: Correctly attributed / Text slightly altered (see details below)


Example #1:
As posted on Facebook, Sep. 22, 2010:

Pictured is a young physician by the name of Dr. Roger Starner Jones. His short two-paragraph letter to the White House accurately puts the blame on a "Culture Crisis" instead of a "Health Care Crisis". It's worth a quick read:

Dear Mr. President:

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.

Respectfully,
ROGER STARNER JONES, MD

If you agree...pass it on.



Example #2:
Email contributed by J. Moore, Oct. 18, 2009:

Fw: Doctor's Letter to the Editor (Jackson, MS)

This was a "letter to the editor" in yesterdays (August 29) 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 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 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.

STARNER JONES, MD



Analysis: The texts above are slightly altered versions of an actual letter to the editor published in the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger on August 23, 2009. It was signed "Starner Jones, M.D."

The original letter is no longer accessible via the Clarion Ledger archives, but based on the earliest repostings I've been able to find online, this is what it actually said:

Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?

During my last shift in the ER, I had the pleasure of evaluating a patient with a shiny new gold tooth, multiple elaborate tattoos 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 a costly pack of cigarettes every day and, somehow, still has money to buy 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 - 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.

Life is really not that hard. Most of us reap what we sow.

Starner Jones, MD
Jackson, MS

As some public critics were quick to point out, Dr. Jones took the liberty of drawing some rather sweeping conclusions based on a single incident. He defended his original statements in a follow-up letter to the same newspaper five months later:

America is Still the Land of Opportunity - For Everyone

Starner Jones, M.D.
Jackson, MS
January 11, 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.

As best I can tell, Dr. Jones has made no further public statements on the matter.


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Sources and further reading:

Why Pay for the Care of the Careless?
Letters to the Editor, Clarion Ledger, 23 August 2009

America Is Still the Land of Opportunity - For Everyone
Letters to the Editor, Clarion Ledger, 11 January 2010


Last updated 09/22/10

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