"I broke down and started crying because I’ve never seen him like that"
An elderly Sikh man’s beard has been “illegally” removed by hospital staff without any clinical reasoning.
The 71-year-old man, known only as Mr Singh, suffered a stroke and was left unable to speak.
He had been taken to Hillingdon Hospital in London where his beard was cut off by hospital staff without his permission or that of his loved ones.
In Sikhism, a beard signifies commitment to the religion with initiated Sikhs forbidden from cutting or shaving body hair.
Mr Singh’s daughter first became suspicious when she noticed an unusually positioned face mask on his chin during a video call.
During further calls, staff only showed the 71-year-old’s eyes and insisted coronavirus restrictions still applied to hospital visits.
A complaint was made to the ward manager the next day and a video call showing the elderly Sikh man’s full face was organised.
However, Mr Singh’s family were shocked to see that his moustache and beard had been trimmed without any explanation.
His daughter Manpreet told MyLondon: “I broke down and started crying because I’ve never seen him like that, he always had a beard when I grew up.
“The way they covered up their mistake made it even worse.
“All we wanted as a family was a written apology but they refused.
“The staff were really rude and now they have stopped us from having any video calls with him.
“We are unhappy with the NHS and we want to take it further.
“I would encourage anyone else that this has happened to, to do the same. This is not right.”
The family have warned that they may sue over what The Sikh Federation (UK) have called “a shocking violation of human rights”.
The federation has also written to the Hillingdon Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
The Chair of the federation, Bhai Amrik Singh said:
“It is impossible to describe in words the impact on a Sikh of his hair being removed without consent and with no clinical reasoning.
“This is a gross violation of the patient’s human rights and his right to practice his faith for which heads must roll.”
“We can only imagine the trauma of this outrageous act on the mental well-being of the 71-year old stroke victim who has already been suffering for over 6 weeks.
“His family are deeply upset by the actions of staff at Hillingdon Hospital who firstly completely disrespected their father’s faith, followed by an attempted cover up that makes the situation even worse.”
Shocking violation of Human Rights committed against elderly Sikh stroke victim who has had his facial hair illegally removed in @HillingdonNHSFT without any clinical reasoning. The incident is unexplained to family. We have written to CEO of hospital & @sajidjavid for answers. pic.twitter.com/v1Y5Wm4D0N
— Sikh Federation UK (@SikhFedUK) October 4, 2021
A spokesperson for the Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:
“We would like to apologise to the family for any distress we may have caused.
“This was an honest mistake made during our care for this patient and we have carried out an investigation into the incident, to learn from it and help ensure it does not happen again.
“We are in ongoing contact with the family and our Chief Executive, Patricia Wright, has also reached out to the Sikh Federation to discuss any broader concerns they may have.”
Sajid Javid has not yet commented on the Sikh man’s beard removal.