A complaint was made that the authorities had failed in their duty to protect a prisoner’s life. The authorities had him in custody for two years and knew of his health problems. He was not properly treated in the penal colony. When he had acute pain, he was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and peritonitis and transferred to a civilian hospital. The surgery performed there was defective. The civilian hospital authorised his discharge to the prison hospital knowing of post-operative complications requiring further surgery, but withheld crucial details from the prison, which treated him as an ordinary post-operative patient rather than an emergency case. The further surgery was performed too late and the patient died.
Held: The complaint succeeded. The Court examined the individual operational failings of the health care given to prisoners, and not simply whether there were proper systems in place.
The court discussed the general principles applicable to the protection of the right to life: ‘The Court reiterates that . . art.2 . . requires the state not only to refrain from the ‘intentional’ taking of life, but also to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction. In the context of prisoners, the Court has already emphasised in previous cases that persons in custody are in a vulnerable position and that the authorities are under a duty to protect them. It is incumbent on the state to account for any injuries suffered in custody, which obligation is particularly stringent where the individual dies.
Those obligations apply in the public-health sphere too. The positive obligations require states to make regulations compelling hospitals, whether private or public, to adopt appropriate measures for the protection of patients’ lives. They also require an effective independent judicial system to be set up so that the cause of death of patients in the care of the medical profession, whether in the public or the private sector, and those responsible made accountable. Furthermore, where a hospital is a public institution, the acts and omissions of its medical staff are capable of engaging the responsibility of the respondent State under the Convention.’
4353/03,  ECHR 1096,  Prison LR 270,  Inquest LR 209, (2009) 48 EHRR 26
European Convention on Human Rights
Cited – Savage 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 . .
Cited – Tyrrell v HM Senior Coroner County Durham and Darlington and Another Admn 26-Jul-2016
The court was aked what article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires of a coroner when a serving prisoner dies of natural causes.
Held: The reuest for judicial review failed. Mr Tyrrell’s death was, from the outset, one which . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 01 February 2021; Ref: scu.248183