Christian pediatrician denies child service because parents are tattooed
BAKERSFIELD - A family is turned away by a local pediatrician, they say because of the way they look.
The doctor said he is just following his beliefs, creating a Christian atmosphere for his patients.
Tasha Childress said it’s discrimination.
She said Dr. Gary Merrill wouldn’t treat her daughter for an ear infection because Tasha, the mother, has tattoos.
The writing is on the wall—literally: “This is a private office. Appearance and behavior standards apply.”
For Dr. Gary Merrill of Christian Medical Services, that means no tattoos, body piercings, and a host of other requirements—all standards Merrill has set based upon his Christian faith.
“She had to go that entire night with her ear infection with no medicine because he has his policy,” Tasha Childress said.
Merrill won’t speak on camera, but said based on his values and beliefs, he has standards that he expects in his office.
He does that, he said, to ensure the patients he does accept have a more comfortable atmosphere.
According to the American Medical Association and other doctors, he reserves that right.
“In the same sense that any other business person has the opportunity to decline service, be it a restaurant if they’re not dressed properly, be it any other type of business,” said Dr. Ronald Morton, Kern County Medical Society.
Morton said certain ethics apply if a person’s life is in danger, but besides that, there is no requirement to serve anyone they don’t approve of.
“I felt totally discriminated against, like I wasn’t good enough to talk to,” Tasha Childress said, “like he didn’t have to give me any reason for not wanting to see my daughter because I have tattoos and piercings.”
17 News found other patients who had a different experience with Merrill.
“I have tattoos, actually, and no, nothing’s ever been said about it,” Brandi Stanley said, Merrill’s patient.
Childress’ insurance company, Health Net of California, who referred her to Merrill, said in a statement: “We provide our customers with a wide breadth of doctors that meet certain medical quality standards … If a customer doesn’t feel comfortable with a particular physician, it is our responsibility to provide that customer with access to another doctor who does meet their needs.”
But that’s not enough for Childress who wants the policy changed immediately and an apology from the doctor for making her feel like an outsider.
“Really, it didn’t matter what he didn’t want to see us for. It isn’t right,” she said.
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Merrill said he will continue to enforce the rules he has in place, which even include no chewing gum in his office.
He said if they don’t like his beliefs, they can find another doctor.