Herczegfalvy v Austria: ECHR 24 Sep 1992

The applicant was detained in an institution for mentally deranged offenders. While so detained he was subjected to the forcible administration of food and neuroleptics and to handcuffing to a security bed. He complained of violation of his Article 3 and 8 rights. One of his complaints was as to interference with his correspondence.
Held: It is for medical authorities to decide, on recognised medical standards to be used, in teatment, if necessary by force, to preserve the physical and mental health of patients who are entirely incapable of deciding for themselves and for whom they are responsible, such patients nevertheless remain under the protection of Article 3, the requirements of which permit no derogation. The established principles of medicine are in principle decisive in such cases; a method which is a therapeutic necessity cannot be regarded as inhuman or degrading. The court must nevertheless satisfy itself that the medical necessity has been convincingly shown to exist.
Here however the patient succeeded in his complaint about interference by the hospital with his private mail. ‘These vaguely worded provisions do not specify the scope or conditions of exercise of the discretionary power which was at the origin of the measures complained of. But such specifications appear all the more necessary in the field of detention in psychiatric institutions in that the persons concerned are frequently at the mercy of the medical authorities, so that their correspondence is their only contact with the outside world. Admittedly, as the court has previously stated, it would scarcely be possible to formulate a law to cover every eventuality. For all that, in the absence of any detail at all as to the kind of restrictions permitted or their purpose, duration and extent, or the arrangements for their review, the above provisions do not offer a minimum of degree of protection against arbitrariness required by the rule of law in a democratic society. According to the information provided to the Court, there has been no case law to remedy this state of affairs. There has therefore been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.’


10533/83, [1992] ECHR 58, (1992) 15 EHRR 437, [1992] ECHR 83


Worldlii, Bailii, Bailii

Cited by:

CitedRegina (N) v Dr M and Others CA 6-Dec-2002
The patient refused consent to treatment in the form of injection of drugs, which her psychiatrists considered to be necessary.
Held: Treatment of this nature infringed the patients rights, and was not to be ordered without clear reason. The . .
CitedMunjaz v Mersey Care National Health Service Trust And the Secretary of State for Health, the National Association for Mental Health (Mind) Respondent interested; CA 16-Jul-2003
The claimant was a mental patient under compulsory detention, and complained that he had been subjected to periods of seclusion.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The hospital had failed to follow the appropriate Code of Practice. The Code was not . .
CitedPS, Regina (on the Application of) v Responsible Medical Officer, Dr G and others Admn 10-Oct-2003
The claimant had been compulsorily detained under the Act. He complained that the detention and compulsory medication infringed his rights, and amongst other things breached his religious beliefs.
Held: This was an exceptional case requiring . .
CitedMurray v The Parole Board Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 6-Nov-2003
The applicant had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He had twice previously been released on licence and had his licence revoked. His tarriff had expired The period between reviews of his detention had been two years, but . .
CitedRegina (Kent Pharmaceuticals Ltd) v Serious Fraud Office CA 11-Nov-2004
In 2002 the SFO was investigating allegations that drug companies were selling generic drugs, including penicillin-based antibiotics and warfarin, to the National Health Service at artificially sustained prices. To further the investigation the SFO . .
CitedB, Regina (on the Application of) v Ashworth Hospital Authority HL 17-Mar-2005
The House was asked whether a patient detained for treatment under the 1983 Act can be treated against his will for any mental disorder from which he is suffering or only for the particular form of mental disorder from which he is classified as . .
CitedNevmerzhitsky v Ukraine ECHR 5-Apr-2005
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) – Violations of Art. 3 (on account of torture and degrading treatment); Violation of Art. 5-1 (c); Violations of Art. 5-3 (on account of the lack of prompt judicial . .
CitedB, Regina (on the Application Of) v SS (Responsible Medical Officer) and others CA 26-Jan-2006
The applicant had been detained after a diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder and convictions for rape. He had applied for discharge, but before the hearing the doctor had said he no longer opposed his release. After the hearing but before being . .
CitedPurdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another QBD 29-Oct-2008
The applicant suffered mutiple sclerosis and considered that she might wish to go abroad to end her life. She asked the court to make more clear the guidance provided by the Director as to whether her partner might be prosecuted under section 2(1) . .
CitedPurdy, Regina (on the Application of) v Director of Public Prosecutions and Another Admn 29-Oct-2008
The applicant said that the defendant had unlawfully failed to provide detailed guidance under section 10 of the 1985 Act, on the circumstances under which a prosecution might lie of a person performing acts which might assist another to commit . .
CitedSavage v South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MIND intervening) HL 10-Dec-2008
The deceased had committed suicide on escaping from a mental hospital. The Trust appealed against a refusal to strike out the claim that that they had been negligent in having inadequate security.
Held: The Trust’s appeal failed. The fact that . .
CitedJuhnke v Turkey ECHR 13-May-2008
Medical treatment, may well be experienced as degrading by a patient who is subjected to it against his will, but ‘A measure which is therapeutically necessary from the point of view of established principles of medicine cannot in principle be . .
MentionedIn re A (A Child) SC 12-Dec-2012
A woman, X, had made an allegation in confidence she had been sexually assaulted as a child. The court was asked whether that confidence could be overriden to allow an investigation to protect if necessary a child still living with the man. Evidence . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Health

Updated: 04 June 2022; Ref: scu.165217