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Czech Republic / The Supreme Court / 30 Cdo 3223/2011

J.M. v The psychiatric hospital in Bohnice

Policy area:
Public Health
Deciding Body type:
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding Body:
The Supreme Court
Type:
Decision
Decision date:
14/05/2013

Key facts of the case:

The plaintiff is the mother of a person suffering from mental disorder who was in cure at the psychiatric hospital in Bohnice (defendant). She claims that the hospital acted in violation of her daughter’s personal rights by cutting her hair off, closing her into a caged bed, fixing her to a toilet for 4 hours. Following the death of her daughter, she claims the hospital to be responsible for it, due to the insufficient supervision provided. The plaintiff asked for apologies to the hospital for depriving her daughter unlawfully of her freedom and other violations of human rights which extremely interfered with her right to be treated with dignity. The distric court in Prague stated that treating a patient in this way is a lege artis action and is against human dignity, but a legitimate approach to a patient. The district court also found the defendant liable to apologize to the plaintiff for insufficient supervision provided to her daughter which led to her death, but for the rest of the suit, the defendant wasn’t the found liable. The Plaintiff brought an appeal to the appellate court in Prague. The appellate court overruled the district courts decision finding the defendant not liable at all. The appellant then sought the Supreme Court review. The major legal questions raised in the petition by the petitioner were: 1. If supervising a person suffering from mental disorder can be subsumed under a term medical care. 2. If a person with a grave mental disorder can be treated in less dignified manner than a healthy person.

Outcome of the case:

The Supreme Court states that human dignity is protected by international and national law. Human dignity is the main and fundamental principal in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1), furthermore its protection can be found in The Charter of the United Nations (preamble), in the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union. On the national level the protection of human dignity is provided by article 1 of the (Czech) Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. It is stated in these provisions, that all people are equal in dignity and that dignity of everybody is protected without discrimination. Therefore protection of dignity of any mentally disordered person cannot be any different from protection of this right of any other person. The Decisions of the lower courts were rejected. Every single breach of personal rights has to be considered separately, for they can constitute a breach of a right to human dignity.