Islamic dress row dentist can carry on

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The Independent Online

A dentist who told Muslim patients he would treat them only if they wore Islamic dress will be able to continue to practise, a disciplinary panel ruled today.

Dr Omer Butt, of Prestwich, Greater Manchester, ordered two women to wear head scarfs before he would see them and their families, the professional conduct committee of the General Dental Council (GDC) found.

The panel concluded that he sought to impose a dress code on Muslim patients while working at the Unsworth Smile Clinic in Bury, Greater Manchester, between April 2005 and June 2007.

Dr Butt "discriminated" against people on the basis he "disapproved of their attitude to the requirements of Islam" and "did not act in the best interests of his patients", the panel found.

The GDC committee said it was "in no doubt that it amounted to misconduct" but found his fitness to practise was not impaired.

It is the second time that the dentist has appeared before a disciplinary committee for his stance on traditional Muslim dress.

In September 2007, Dr Butt received an admonition from the GDC after being found guilty of discriminating against a female patient by refusing to treat her unless she wore "appropriate Islamic dress".

The patient said staff at his clinic told her Muslim women had to wear a head scarf and Muslim men could not wear gold jewellery.

The panel said today the events took place "a considerable time ago" and Dr Butt had not repeated the conduct since September 2007.

In addition, the committee accepted he had changed his approach as a result of the action taken against him.

The GDC committee said: "Although it is right to say that you have continued to maintain that you did not intentionally impose a dress code, the committee accepts that you have demonstrated insight into the effect upon your patients of seeking to impose a dress code.

"The committee accepts your evidence that the result of these hearings has had such a profound effect upon you and your family that you have changed your approach to these matters within your practise."

Concluding Dr Butt's fitness to practise was not impaired, the committee said: "The committee has taken full account of the need to protect patients, to maintain confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct within the profession.

"It has already stated that it views your misconduct as serious.

"If the committee had heard these matters in 2007 it is likely that it would have found your fitness to practise to be impaired.

"However, it has taken account of the passage of time and all the matters set out above.

"It has concluded that your conduct is remediable and has been remedied. Further, it is not likely that you will repeat it.

"Accordingly the committee has concluded that your fitness to practise is not impaired."