K.H. and Others v. Slovakia, European Court of Human Rights, (Application no. 32881/04)
Application to European Court of Human Rights against decision of Slovakian courts stating that there was no right to photocopy medical records; Whether access to make handwritten notes from medical records is sufficient to fulfill the right to respect for family and private life under Article 8 of the ECHR; Whether the denying access to photocopy records necessary for litigation proceedings violates the right to a hearing before a tribunal under Article 6 § 1 of the ECHR; Right to Information on Sexual and Reproductive Health on a basis on non-discrimination and equality; Right to an Effective Remedy; Access to Justice.
Eight women, all members of the Roma community in Slovakia, received gynaecological and obstetric treatment in eastern Slovakia. After this treatment, all eight women were unsuccessful in conceiving again. The women recalled being asked to sign documents prior to discharge from the hospital, but they were unable to identify the contents of the documents they signed. The claimants consented to representation by lawyers from the Centre for Civil and Human Rights, but in 2002, the Ministry of Health interpreted "legal representative" under the Health Care Act 1994 to mean only parents of underage children or as representatives of those whose legal capacity has been limited and therefore denied the attorneys access to view and photocopy the medical records. The claimants then sued the hospitals in 2003, however, the District, Regional, and Constitutional Courts found no right to photocopy medical records and no violation of rights protected under the Constitution or the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The Applicants took their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In determining the scope of state obligations under Article 8 of the ECHR (right to private and family life), the Court found that this right must be practical and effective and therefore access to files containing ones personal data must be allowed. Also, the Court determined that the cost and arrangements for making the photocopies would be borne by the individual making the request and the facility must present compelling reasons for refusing to provide copies. Under Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention, which affirms the right to a hearing before a tribunal, the European Court found that the limitations on access to the files under the Health Care Act of 1994 created a disproportionate burden on the individual in trying to develop an effective case for litigation and therefore Article 6 § 1 had been violated.
Keywords: K.H. and Others v. Slovakia, European Court of Human Rights, (Application no. 32881/04), Information, Right
The Court awarded the claimants damages in the amount 3,500 Euros each, as a remedy for the rights violations, as well as partial litigation costs. As the case was very recently decided, enforcement of the decision is still unclear. For more information, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org. ESCR-Net will update this section when more information becomes available.
Centre for Civil and Political Rights Center for Reproductive Rights
This case is another in a series of pronouncements from various human rights bodies, including the case against Hungary brought under the Optional Protocol to CEDAW that have been increasing the pressure on Central and Eastern European governments to end the active discrimination against Roma peoples, especially women, in their countries.