NY facility pays $20,000 for shaving Sikh patient’s beard

April 14th, 2009 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, April 14 (IANS) A New York healthcare facility where a nurse negligently shaved an elderly Sikh patient’s beard, eyebrows and moustache a month before his death has paid $20,000 in compensation to his family after a lawsuit.
The Westchester County Healthcare paid the amount in an out-of-the-court settlement with the family of Pyara Singh Sahansra, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, United Sikhs, a US-based community organisation stated.

Sahansra’s family had previously spoken with the hospital staff about Sikhs’ religious practice of keeping long hair and had also placed signs on the patient’s bed to remind them of this when he was in the long-term care of the medical facility in 2007.

However, the hospital removed the signs stating that they were not allowed, but assured the family that Sahansra’s hair would not be cut.

After some time, a new nurse, who was not instructed about the Sikh religious practices, cut Sahansra’s beard, eyebrows and moustache, “violating his deeply held religious principles”, the statement said.

Sahansra died on July 18, 2007, a little over a month after the incident.

In the final settlement with the patient’s family, the hospital paid $20,000 in compensation, which also included a provision for training of the facility’s employees on Sikh patients’ care.

The incident occurred at the Taylor Care Centre division of Westchester Medical Center in Westchester County, New York.

“We are very pleased with this agreement. It points the way for other health care facilities across the country to treat Sikh persons with true respect for their religious human rights,” stated attorney Robert Greene, who led the settlement discussions.

United Sikhs’ staff attorney Jaspreet Singh said: “It is extremely unfortunate that a Sikh patient in a hospital was treated in such an egregious manner.

“We are working to have Guidelines for Hospital Admittance and Care/Extended Care for Sikhs adopted by hospitals around the country so that incidents like this one can be avoided in the future.”

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