A family has hired well-known lawyer Bert Samuels to commence legal action against Linstead Public Hospital in St. Catherine after its patriarch’s beard allegedly was removed at the medical facility late last month.
The relatives of William Montgomery Holmes, 78, are claiming that his beard was removed without permission while he was admitted to the hospital after suffering a stroke.
The beard was part of the Rastafarian’s identity, and had been maintained for more than 57 years.
The lawyer told The Beacon that the removal of the beard is ‘awful’ and can be considered a ‘hate crime’. He further claimed that Holmes’ constitutional rights were breached.
Samuels also wrote a letter dated April 30 to request ‘reasonable damages’ on the family’s behalf. His letter, which is addressed to Chief Executive Officer of Linstead Public Hospital Paul McIntyre, is copied to Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton and Public Defender Arlene Harrison-Henry.
Samuels wrote: “Our client and his family are devastated as a result of this deliberate violation of his rights, and hereby seek a detailed account of what had transpired, an admission of the wrongdoing, an apology on terms to be agreed, and reasonable damages accruing from the said violation.”
He further explained that Holmes was admitted to a ward at the hospital on April 26, adding that his client’s personal information was provided in detail to a hospital employee.
“…His personal information, including his religion, his religious practices and his dietary habits as an Elder of the Nyabinghi Order was conveyed in great detail,” Samuels wrote.
He continued: “We have been informed that, contrary to his wishes and his fundamental religious practices, our client, who maintained his locs and facial hair for over 57 years, was shaved… We were further informed that there was no consultation conducted with our client or his next of kin prior to shaving his beard, notwithstanding [the hospital] being furnished with various contact information.”
Samuels, in his letter to the hospital, added that, based on the family’s account, his client’s beard was also ‘improperly disposed’ of. He said the remains ‘were found lingering at the side of the bed and also in a bag containing his belongings’.
In the meantime, the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer said the facility already started an investigation, and will bring the matter to the attention of the health ministry’s legal team.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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