Sikh doctors in Canada make ‘extremely difficult decision’ to serve Covid-19 patients
Facing a choice between their duty as doctors in the time of the coronavirus pandemic and a visible symbol of their faith, a pair of Sikh physician brothers in Canada have chosen to shave off their beards, so as to enable them to wear the medical-grade protective masks necessary to treat patients suffering from the deadly coronavirus.
Both Sanjeet Singh Saluja, an emergency room physician with the McGill University Health Centre or MUHC in Montreal, and his brother Rajeet, a neurosurgeon at the same hospital, had to take that difficult decision.
In a video posted on the MUHC website, the 44-year-old Sanjeet said this was a “very difficult decision” for them but one “we feel is necessary in this time of need”.
Sanjeet, also a doctor attached to the Major League Soccer team Montreal Impact, also pointed out they opted to choose another pillar of the Sikh faith, seva or service, over that of kesh, which he described as “the practice of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for God’s creation.” The city of Montreal in the province of Quebec has been one of the epicentres of the disease in Canada, accounting for nearly 1,500 of the just over 4,000 deaths recorded in the country so far.
Paying tribute to the personal sacrifice Sanjeet made during the crisis, MUHC noted, “As a Sikh man, his beard is an important part of his identity but it was impeding his ability to wear a mask. After much thought, he made the difficult decision to shave his beard off.”
Sanjeet told the Montreal Gazette, “But because Covid-19 has become so rampant in our community, it just wasn’t feasible anymore (not to wear a N-95 mask). There are so many people coming in. I felt I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. This was an exception to the rule, so we had to do what we had to do to help out.”
Canada’s total coronavirus death toll rose to 3,915 on Tuesday, up about four per cent from 3,766 on Monday, according to official data.