The 23-year career of a family doctor hangs in the balance after he reportedly asked a Muslim woman to remove a veil covering her mouth, so that he could better understand what she was saying about the condition of her ill child.
The GP, Dr Keith Wolverson, explained that he could not hear the woman properly through her niqab, a veil covering the face from the eyes down, and asked her politely to remove it while she was describing her daughter’s illness.
“I found it difficult to understand what the woman was saying behind her veil, so politely asked her to remove it [as] I needed to hear what was wrong with her daughter so I could offer the safest possible care,” he explained.
Dr Wolverson said that she had obliged and that there had not been an issue when he initially asked, but half an hour later the woman’s husband arrived at the surgery and lodged a complaint against the doctor with his supervisors.
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The husband claimed that his wife had been left in tears by the incident and felt that she had been “victimized and racially discriminated against”.
He alleges that Doctor Wolverson gave her a “dirty look” when asking her to remove the veil and had refused to continue the appointment unless she complied, and the woman claims she told the doctor she was uncomfortable doing so due to her religious beliefs.
The complaint has now been formally taken up with the General Medical Council (GMC) and may even result in the doctors’ dismissal. Dr Wolverson said that the process could “ruin me”.
Dr Wolverson went on to call the claims of racism “outrageous” and said, “I’m not racist. This is nothing to do with race, religion or skin colour – it’s about clarity of communication.”
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Wolverson said that he had never encountered an issue in the past when asking patients to remove face coverings and said that “many do it as a courtesy”.
Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, has urged the GMC to send Dr Wolverson on a diversity awareness course but stated it would be a “shame” if any stronger action was taken.
Joyce Robins, from the campaign group ‘Patient Concern’, said that losing a doctor over the issue would be “criminal.”
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