The mother was offended and complained to my friend, her regular pediatrician. When my friend related it to someone in management at the pediatric emergency room, she discovered that it was not the first time the emergency room pediatrician had done something like this.
I think most of you would agree with me that doctors should not say such things to patients, for several reasons. For one thing, it's just plain rude. For another thing, the doctor might not know the whole situation. In this case, the mother used a pre-paid cell phone as her only phone, which was the most inexpensive way for her to have a phone. Also, saying such things to patients doesn't do any good. Did the ER doc really expect the mother to get rid of her cell phone because of that comment? Finally, it belittles people, and there is little to ever be gained by doing that.
I must admit, though, that there are times when it's tempting to make some snide comment to a patient. A few days ago we had a 21 year old in the labor and delivery area having her fifth child. I was tempted to say to her "What's the problem here? Is birth control too difficult for you to master? Or do you just not give a shit about yourself or anyone else?" (Kids, don't use these words at home!) We can all agree it's best I left those words unsaid. On the other hand, if I were to a have a compassionate talk with her at the appropriate time about her problems with multiple pregnancies, that would be a different matter.
I'm not sure what's going to happen to the snippy emergency room doctor. Maybe she needs some counselling. Maybe, though, she just needs a blog where she can get those things out of her system.
P.S. Check out a new pediatric grand rounds at Parenting Solved.