A fast-growing list of signatures on a petition to save a U.K. doctor’s career has reached 100,000. Dr. Keith Wolverson is unable to work pending an investigation after a woman’s husband complained that the general practitioner asked his wife to remove her veil so he could better hear her.
In June 2018, Wolverson asked the woman to remove her niqab, a veil covering all but the eyes, so he could hear her while he tried to diagnose her daughter at Royal Stoke University Hospital in the English county of Staffordshire. He said that she did not object, but that later her husband had filed a complaint.
“I’m not racist. This has nothing to do with race, religion or skin color,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.
The doctor admits to being “rather fearful of the consequences” of the racial discrimination inquiry by the General Medical Council.
The creator of the petition on Change.org said that the doctor was acting in “the best interests of the child.” The petition reads, in part:
“I would like to get as many people as possible to sign this petition and save this man’s reputation. I believe he acted in the best interests of the child involved and there was no racist or religious discrimination in his actions.
“We need to ensure the General Medical Council treats this man fairly and looks at all the evidence. Our NHS is severely understaffed and we cannot afford to lose doctors due to fabricated accusations of discrimination.”
“It’s not been a great time … I wanted to get this into the public arena. It was so absurd,” Wolverson told the Mail. “The woman had a full face veil on, which I asked her to remove for clarity of communication. There was no sign from her that she was upset or upset with me for asking. She did so willingly. Later on her husband attended the treatment centre and made a formal complaint.”
The doctor said that when he had previously treated Muslim women wearing a niqab they removed it without his asking.
“I’ve seen the suggestion that I could’ve asked a female GP to carry out the treatment for the woman’s daughter but there was no female GP in the centre,” he said.
The doctor said he has never before faced sanctions, but may now be suspended. “It’s not been easy, I was just trying to do my job. I’ve not working in medicine since.”
The complaint received by the GMC said that the woman told him she did not want to remove the veil on religious grounds, but he would not continue the consultation if she refused. It claims the mother was left crying and feeling “victimized and racially discriminated” against, and it says the doctor was “rude” and “gave her a dirty look.”
According to the paper, Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, said the doctor’s actions were “offensive,” and that a female member of staff could have been called in to help.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said it would be “criminal” for a doctor to be fired over this. She said, “A doctor needs to be sensitive to a patient’s religion but safety must always come first.”
The Sun reports that the petition response has provided a lift for Wolverton. “It has been a huge comfort and renews my faith in human nature,” he said.
“I hope the overwhelming response leads to the GMC issuing clearer guidelines, so other doctors do not face the same ordeal.” The Doctors’ Association UK is backing his calls.
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