Sikh doctor-brothers shave off beards to serve COVID-19 patients in Canada


Dr Sanjeet Singh Saluja who had to shave off his beard so he could wear the necessary protective mask to treat Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Montreal.(Photo: MUHC)
Dr Sanjeet Singh Saluja who had to shave off his beard so he could wear the necessary protective mask to treat Covid-19 patients at a hospital in Montreal.(Photo: MUHC)

Sikh physician-brothers in Canada have chosen to shave off their beards to serve COVID-19 patients in the country. They said the decision was “extremely difficult” to take.

Sanjeet Singh Saluja, an emergency room physician with the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, and his brother Rajeet, a neurosurgeon at the same hospital, have taken the ‘extreme’ step to wear the medical-grade protective masks necessary to treat patients.

They took the ‘ultimate’ decision after consulting with religious advisers, family and friends, local media reported.

In Sikhism, kesh is the practice of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. By not cutting hair, Sikhs honor God’s gift of hair.

The brothers said that they felt such a decision was absolutely necessary in this time of need.

“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,” the MUHC said in a statement.

“We could choose not to work, but in a time when healthcare workers are falling sick, we would be adding stress to an already taxed system. We could decide to simply refuse to see COVID-19 patients until viable protection is available to us, but that goes against our oath as physicians and against the principles of SEVA,” said Singh Saluja.

“It’s a decision that has left me with much sadness. This was something that had been so much part of my identity. I look at myself in the mirror very differently now. Every morning when I see myself, it’s a bit of a shock.”

The brothers said that they are still having a really hard time with it.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Canada has reached 62,035 with 4,043 deaths, according to the health authorities.