Dentist guilty over Muslim veil row

A dentist who told a female patient she would have to wear ‘appropriate Islamic dress’ to receive treatment has been found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Omer Butt was found to have discriminated against the woman, known as Mrs A, and received an admonition following a three-day disciplinary hearing of the General Dental Council in London.

The Council’s professional conduct committee ruled that Dr Butt was guilty of telling patient A words to the effect that, in order to receive treatment from him, she needed to wear appropriate Islamic dress, and that he had told Ms A that if she did not wear a Muslim headscarf she would need to register with another dentist.

The patient, a non-practising Muslim, said she was ‘humiliated and upset’ after the encounter at the surgery in Bury, Greater Manchester, in April 2005.

The dentist was found guilty of undermining public confidence in the dental profession by discriminating against Ms A in seeking to impose an Islamic dress code on her in order for treatment to be provided by him.

Stewart Goulding, chairman of the committee, told Dr Butt that his conduct had fallen short of the standard expected by failing to put the interests of patient A first.

But he said the committee had noted testimonials from patients and mitigation that he had put before them. The committee had also heard there had not been any previous disciplinary hearings against him.

Concluding the case, he said: ‘In deciding on sanction the committee has considered the options available starting with the least serious. The committee is satisfied that the appropriate decision is to conclude the case today with this admonition.

‘As a member of a caring profession, a dentist has a responsibility to put the interests of patients first. The professional relationship between dentist and patient relies on trust and the assumption that a dentist will act in the best interests of the patient.

‘In the light of the committee’s finding of facts, it is apparent that on April 18, 2005 your conduct fell short of the standard expected of a dentist in that you did not put the interests of patient A first. The effect of your actions on this occasion was to impede patient A’s access to local dental services.’

The dentist had denied the charges, but admitted he would ask Muslim women to cover up in accordance with Islamic law before he treated them. Giving evidence in his defence, Dr Butt said he ‘politely requested’ the woman to wear a headscarf.

The hearing was told the dentist later quoted Islamic Sharia law on appropriate relationships between men and women.

Patient A said she was told by a dental nurse at the surgery: ‘Inside the surgery it’s Dr Butt’s world and his rules apply.’

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