Damages following demand for handshake

A Moslem woman has won SEK 75,000 in damages for religious discrimination. She had told Hässleholm District Court a doctor refused to examine her because, in accordance with her faith, she had declined to shake hands with him.

According to the woman, the physician demanded that they should greet each other with a handshake, saying that was how it was done in Sweden. The woman says she put her hand on her heart instead, in keeping with her religion.

The doctor had denied that description, and told the court the examination had not been conducted because the presence of the woman’s husband in the room created a threatening atmosphere. But an interpreter, who was also present, rejected that version of the events.

Anna Rosenmüller Nordlander of the office of the Discrimination Ombudsman has welcomed the verdict: “The decision shows that this was discrimination. To be denied an examination because for religious reasons you refuse to take a doctor’s hand, this is discrimination and it is not acceptable. The healthcare system must adapt itself to difference ways to extending greetings. That should not determine if one receives care.”