Roughly 10,000 people have signed a petition supporting a British doctor who was investigated for asking a Muslim woman to remove her veil.
According to the Daily Mail, Dr. Keith Wolverson, 52, who has been practicing medicine for over 20 years, said that last June the Muslim woman brought her daughter, aged 10 or 11, to Royal Stoke University Hospital, believing she might have tonsillitis. Wolverson said he could not hear the mother’s voice due to her niqab, which only left her eyes uncovered. He added that the woman did not object when he asked her to remove the niqab, but her husband made a complaint later, prompting the General Medical Council to investigate him over allegations of racial discrimination.
The complaint states that the woman did not want to remove her veil and that she felt “victimized and racially discriminated” against. It also states that Wolverson refused to continue the meeting unless she removed the niqab, and that he was “rude” and “gave her a dirty look,” all of which Wolverson denies. He said:
It’s outrageous. I was just trying to do my job properly. I found it difficult to understand what the woman was saying behind her veil, so politely asked her to remove it. I needed to hear what was wrong with her daughter, so I could offer the safest possible care. I’m not racist. This is nothing to do with race, religion or skin color – it’s about clarity of communication. I’ve treated many Muslim patients and never had a problem when I’ve asked women to remove their veil. Many do it as a courtesy as soon as they enter the consulting room.
Wolverson said, “I feel a major injustice has taken place. This is why you are waiting so long to see your GP and doctors are leaving in droves. This country will have no doctors left if we continue to treat them in this manner. I’m deeply upset. A doctor’s quest to perform the very finest consultation for the safety of the patient has been misinterpreted in a duplicitous manner to suggest there has been an act of racism committed. I absolutely no longer want to be a doctor.” Of the husband, Wolverson stated, “He sat outside my consultation room and threateningly made eye contact towards me whenever I went out to fetch each patient.”
Wolverson added, “Unfortunately I’m not able to work at the moment as I’m a locum GP and no one will employ you while you’re under investigation by the GMC. I feel I’ve been left with no alternative but to look at doing something else.” When asked what he would do, he answered, “Probably cosmetic work, botox, things like that. I won’t need to be on the medical register in order to do them.”
Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation called Wolverson’s alleged actions “offensive,” saying Wolverson should take a diversity awareness course. Joyce Robins of Patient Concern countered that; she told the Sun Online: “A doctor needs to be sensitive to a patient’s religion but safety must always come first.”