GP may be struck off for asking Muslim women to remove face veil

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A UK GP, forced out of work for asking a woman to remove her niqabhas so that he could properly hear her describe her daughter’s symptoms, attracted more than 20,000 signatures on a petition demanding his reinstatement, reports The Daily Telegraph. Dr Keith Wolverson could be struck off after “politely” asking a Muslim mother to remove the face veil so he could hear her properly as she described her daughter’s suspected tonsillitis.

The report says the family doctor, who was practising at a walk-in centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital, says the woman consented without raising any objection, but that her husband turned up shortly after and made a formal complaint. Wolverson has since received a letter from the General Medical Council (GMC) informing him he is under investigation for racism and could be kicked out of the profession.

The locum, who has 23 years unblemished experience as a GP, says he has found it impossible to secure work since the incident last June and is considering taking on non-medical cosmetic work, such as injecting Botox, in order to pay the bills.

The report says the affair has provoked outrage among many doctors and nurses online.

A petition calling for the GMC to “treat this man fairly and look at all the evidence”, gained more than 20,000 signatures in little over a day. “I’m not racist – this is nothing to do with race, religion or skin colour, it’s about clarity of communication,” Wolverson is quoted in the report as saying. “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.”

According to the complaint forwarded to the GMC by the hospital, the woman said she felt “victimised and racially discriminated against”, and that Wolverson was “rude” and “gave her a dirty look”. The report says the family alleges Wolverson refused to continue the consultation until she removed her niqab, which he denies.

GMC rules contain no explicit mention of patients’ niqabs or face veils. However, the organisation said doctors are expected to respect patients’ choice of religious dress and to consider the potential for distress if patients are asked to expose a part of their body they would rather conceal.

Wolverson said most of his Muslim patients automatically remove the garment upon entering the consultation room. The report says he described the investigation as a “major injustice”, adding: “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.”

The Daily Telegraph report

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