Saturday, September 22, 2007

Islamic abuse in the NHS

A Muslim dentist made a woman wear Islamic dress as the price of accepting her as an NHS patient, it is alleged. Omer Butt is said to have told the patient that unless she wore a headscarf she would have to find another practice. Later this month, Mr Butt will appear before a General Dental Council professional misconduct hearing, which has the power to strike him off. It is claimed that the 31-year-old dentist asked to speak to the woman in private after she turned up for an appointment at his clinic in Bury. According to the charges, he questioned her on whether she was a Muslim and told her that if he was to treat her she would have to wear Islamic dress. He is also said to have read out a number of religious rules to her. He then told his nurse to give the patient her own headscarf to wear, the accusation says. It is not known whether the woman was a Muslim.

The charges to be heard by the General Dental Council say that Mr Butt undermined public confidence in his profession by discriminating against a patient and failed to act in her best interests. Mr Butt is the older brother of former Islamic extremist Hassan Butt, who once declared he had 'no problem' with terror attacks on Britain and who said that September 11 "served the pleasure of Allah". He has since recanted and now calls for all Muslims to abandon violence.

The dentist also featured in immigration hearings involving an asylum seeker suspected of providing a safe house for Kamel Bourgass, an Algerian terrorist jailed for life for stabbing PC Stephen Oake to death in Manchester in 2003. Mr Butt, the immigration hearing was told, was introduced by his brother to the asylum seeker, who at various points claimed three different identities. The tribunal was told that Mr Butt was "a respectable and responsible person who wishes to help devout and practising Muslims in difficulty". He "did not regard the use of false names as unusual for asylum seekers".

The headscarf incident is alleged to have happened in 2005, at a time when between 4,000 and 8,000 people in Bury were unable to find an NHS dentist. According to the charges, Mr Butt "asked to speak to Patient A in private. "In the course of conversation with Patient A you: (a) asked whether she was Muslim; (b) told her words to the effect that, in order to receive treatment from you, she needed to wear appropriate Islamic dress; (c) quoted to her parts of the Ahadith."

The Ahadith is a series of instructions on behaviour attributed to Prophet Mohammed but not written as part of the Koran. The charge continues: "You told Patient A that, if she did not wear a headscarf, she would need to register with another dentist. You instructed your dental nurse to give Patient A her headscarf. "The dental nurse took Patient A to another room where she was given the nurse's headscarf to wear. "In seeking to impose an Islamic dress code on Patient A in order for treatment to be provided you undermined public confidence in the profession by discriminating against Patient A."

If the charges are upheld, the Porsche- driving dentist will be found guilty of serious professional misconduct. Penalties can range from a public warning to suspension and being struck off.

Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford, a former minister and a dentist, said: "When a patient comes to see me I have no concern with their religion. I do not ask Muslim patients to read the Bible. "My practice tries to respect religious belief. For example, during Ramadan we try to help Muslim patients by making sure they do not have to swallow water when they are fasting. We do not ask patients to become Christians."

Women staff at Mr Butt's Bury practice do not routinely wear headscarves while at work. One female patient said: "I think it is a pretty outrageous thing to ask but I have never felt as if I am being discriminated against at this practice as a Western woman. "If I was then I would certainly make a full complaint. If it is true then it shows a reverse prejudice bordering on racism."

Mr Butt was involved in another controversial incident earlier this year when police stopped his Porsche 911 and said they could not read its customised number plate. The dentist recorded the subsequent search of the car on his mobile phone and passed the video to the BBC, which broadcast it on a local news bulletin. It shows Mr Butt asking an officer: "Are you a racist?" The dentist was then arrested for racially aggravated behaviour. There were no charges, and a complaint against the police by Mr Butt is still being considered. Mr Butt was unavailable for comment yesterday. Staff at his practice said he was on holiday.


HillaryCare's New Clothes: Different means but the same political destination

Hillary Clinton has been blasted for months by her Democratic Presidential rivals because, until Monday, she hadn't delivered her formal campaign promises for "universal" health care. But John Edwards and Barack Obama were unfair. She beat them to the punch by at least 13 years. The former first lady's 1993-94 health-care overhaul ended disastrously. Still, it poured the philosophical and policy foundations of the current health-care debate. As she unveils HillaryCare II, Mrs. Clinton likes to joke that it's "deja vu all over again"--and it is, unfortunately. Her new plan is called "Health Choices" and mentions "choice" so many times that it sounds like a Freudian slip. And sure enough, "choice" for Mrs. Clinton means using different means that will arrive at the same end: an expensive, bureaucratic, government-run system that restricts choice.

Begin with the "individual mandate." The latest fad after Mitt Romney's Massachusetts miracle, it compels everyone to have insurance, either through their employers or the government. Not only would this element of HillaryCare require a huge new enforcement bureaucracy, it is twinned with a "pay or play" tax on businesses that don't, or can't afford to, provide health insurance to their employees.

The plan also creates a new public insurance option, modeled after Medicare, and open to everyone, regardless of income. To keep insurance "affordable," HillaryCare II offers a refundable tax credit that limits cost to a certain percentage of income. Yet the program works at cross-purposes, because coverage mandates always drive up the price of insurance. And if the "pay or play" tax is lower than a company's current health insurance costs, a company will have every incentive to dump its employee plan and pay the tax.

Meanwhile, the private insurance industry would be restructured with far more stringent regulations. Mrs. Clinton would require nationally "guaranteed issue," which means insurers have to offer policies to all applicants. She would also command "community rating," which prohibits premium differences based on health status.

Both of these have raised costs enormously in the states that require them (such as New York), but Mrs. Clinton says they are necessary nationwide to prevent "discrimination" that infringes "on the central purposes of insurance, which is to share risk." Not quite. The central purpose of insurance is to price, and hedge against, reasonably predictable risks. It does not require socializing every last expense and redistributing wealth.

No liberal reform would be complete without repealing the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003; Mrs. Clinton would foot the bill for her plan with this tax increase. The rest of the estimated $110 billion per year in new government spending would be achieved by "modernizing" health-care delivery and "promoting wellness," though this $35 billion in savings is speculative, if not fanciful. Further tax hikes would be required: That $110 billion is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, and Team Hillary is keeping the specifics in its pocket.

Given how poorly "universal" policies fared the last time around, who can blame them? Mrs. Clinton and Ira Magaziner headed a health-care task force with more than 500 members that eventually produced 1,342 numbing pages of proposals. It's hardly surprising this boondoggle died without so much as a Congressional vote.

Yet Mrs. Clinton insisted that the public had been spooked by Rush Limbaugh, an article in a marginal political journal and advertising campaigns such as "Harry and Louise." In other words, the lessons she learned were political, not substantive. She thought she had overreached with too-sweeping changes. So she and her husband began to slice their universal health-care ambitions into smaller initiatives like the 1997 State Children's Health Insurance Program (Schip).

This is her strategy now. HillaryCare II is designed to cause minimal disruptions to current private insurance coverage in the short run, while dressing up the old agenda with slightly different mechanisms and rhetoric. Rather than fight small business, this time she is trying to seduce it with tax credits for small companies that provide insurance. Only later when costs rise will the credits shrink or other taxes rise. To court large manufacturers, like the auto and steel industries, she'll offer another, "temporary" tax credit to subsidize their health-care liabilities. Her plan, in short, is HillaryCare I in better clothes--a transitional platform to shift people to the default option, which is government insurance.

What's striking about all this is how little new thinking there is. Like the other Democratic proposals, HillaryCare II would mark another major government intrusion into health care. It would keep all of the system's current problems, most of them created by government policies, and entrench and expand them. The creativity is all in the political repackaging.


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