Two Canadian doctors of the Sikh faith have made the difficult decision to shave off their beards — which is pillar of their faith — to continue treating Covid-19 patients.
Their decision has sparked a conversation among Sikhs, especially health care workers, who say there are alternatives to shaving.
Dr. Sanjeet Singh-Saluja, an emergency doctor and physician at McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) in Montreal, said he and his brother, also a doctor, shaved their beards so they could properly wear N95 face masks that offer protection from the coronavirus.
“One of the pillars of the Sikh faith is Seva, which is service to mankind. I have always viewed my work at the MUHC as a chance for me to fulfill my faith’s expectations of service,” Singh-Saluja said in a video explaining his decision.
“However, another pillar of the faith, as many of you know, is Kesh, which is the practice of allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of God’s creation. In this time of pandemic, I am faced with an existential crisis as the latter has severely limited my ability to serve.”
The brothers had to choose between not seeing Covid-19 patients until suitable protection was made available to them or shaving their beards, Singh-Saluja said in the video. To honor their oaths as physicians and their religious duty to serve, the two doctors chose the latter.
“This is a decision made after many weeks of soul searching and many sleepless nights. This is a very difficult decision for us, and one we feel is necessary in this time of need,” Singh-Saluja said.
“This is a decision that has left me with great sadness, and I truly mourn the loss of something that has been a major part of my identity.”
MUHC declined to comment, saying the brothers made “a personal decision.”