UK

Doctor Who Faces Investigation for Asking Muslim Woman to Remove Face Covering Plans to Quit

By Zachary Stieber

A doctor of 23 years said that he plans to quit after a Muslim woman apparently complained over his request for her to remove her face covering to provide better care.

Dr. Keith Wolverson, a general practitioner, said that he could not hear his patient when she described her child’s symptoms so he asked her to remove her face covering.

The covering is called a niqab and covers a woman’s entire face except for slits for her eyes.

Wolverson said the woman agreed to remove the covering and the rest of the examination went well but the woman’s husband came to him at the Royal Stoke University Hospital about 30 minutes later and claimed that his wife was in tears and said she was “racially discriminated against,” reported The Sun.

The family asked the General Medical Council to open an investigation into what happened and the body has done so.

Wolverson slammed the probe, calling it “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,” he said.

“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 later told the Daily Mail that regardless of the probe’s outcome, he plans on resigning.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Wolverson also said the woman’s husband sat outside his room for a while and “threateningly made eye contact toward me whenever I went out to fetch each patient.”

Joyce Robins of the Patient Concern group said that losing a doctor over the complaint would be “criminal.”

“A doctor needs to be sensitive to a patient’s religion but safety must always come first,” she said, reported the Sun.

A spokesman for The Doctors’ Association UK told the Mail: “It is of utmost importance that the religious wishes of our patients are respected. However, evidently there are some circumstances where removal of a niqab or burka is necessary for medical assessment and treatment.”

The council should issue guidelines “to protect both doctors and our patients,” the group added.

Two women wearing Islamic niqab veils stand outside the French Embassy during a demonstration in London on April 11, 2011. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, thousands of people have signed a petition backing Wolverson after news of the complaint spread.

Over 14,000 people have signed the petition, which was started on May 18.

“I would like to get as many people as possible to sign this petition and save this mans reputation. I believe he acted in the best interest of the child involved and there was no racist or religious discrimination in his actions. We need to ensure the General Medical Council treat this man fairly and look at all the evidence,” Rhaegwyn WelshDragon5517, Change.org user who started the petition, wrote.

“Our NHS is severely understaffed and we cannot afford to lose doctors due to fabricated accusations of discrimination,” he said.