LH v Latvia: ECHR 29 Apr 2014

Article 8-1
Respect for private life
Lack of precision of domestic law allowing public authority collection of applicant’s medical data: violation
Facts – During her delivery in a public hospital in 1997, the surgeon performed tubal litigation on the applicant without her consent. After failing to reach an out-of-court settlement, the applicant filed a civil action in damages against the hospital which was ultimately successful. Meanwhile, the director of the hospital wrote to the Inspectorate of Quality Control for Medical Care and Fitness for Work (‘MADEKKI’) requesting an evaluation of the medical treatment the applicant had received in his institution. During the subsequent administrative inquiry, MADEKKI requested and received the applicant’s medical files from three different medical institutions and ultimately issued a report concluding that no laws had been violated during the applicant’s childbirth. The applicant subsequently challenged the lawfulness of the administrative inquiry undertaken by MADEKKI, but her claim was dismissed, the Senate of the Supreme Court having found that domestic law authorised MADEKKI to examine the quality of medical care provided in medical institutions at their request.
Law – Article 8: Recalling the importance of the protection of medical data to a person’s enjoyment of the right to respect for private life, the Court had to examine whether the applicable domestic law had been formulated with sufficient precision and whether it afforded adequate safeguards against arbitrariness. In this connection it firstly observed that the applicable legal norms described the competence of MADEKKI in a very general manner and that there did not seem to be a legal basis for a hospital to seek independent expert advice from it in ongoing civil litigation. Furthermore, the domestic law in no way limited the scope of private data that could be collected by MADEKKI during such inquiries, which resulted in it collecting medical data on the applicant relating to a seven-year period indiscriminately and without any prior assessment of whether such data could be potentially decisive, relevant or of importance for achieving whatever aim might have been pursued by the inquiry. Finally, the fact that the inquiry had commenced seven years after the applicant’s sterilisation raised doubts as to whether the data collection was ‘necessary for purposes of medical treatment [or] provision or administration of health care services’ as required under domestic law. In view of the foregoing, the Court found that the applicable law had failed to indicate with sufficient clarity the scope of discretion conferred on competent authorities and the manner of its exercise.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: EUR 11,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

52019/07 – Legal Summary, [2014] ECHR 515
European Convention on Human Rights

Human Rights, Health Professions

Updated: 03 December 2021; Ref: scu.526033