Two women sterilized against their will were granted settlements of hundreds of thousands of Czech crowns by the High Court in Prague last week according to an article in Romea.cz.
Advocates say that dozens of women, most of them from the highly marginalized Roma ethnic group, have been
sterilized without their consent in the Czech Republic, but "precise
statistics on the phenomenon have not been gathered."
According to David Záhumenský, chair of the League of Human Rights, which is representing the patients:
[M]edical professionals in both cases most probably did
not intend the women harm. In the case of the sterilization, they
believed they were protecting the woman from the risk associated with
carrying another child to term, and in the case of the ovary removal,
they believed they were reducing the woman’s risk of cancer. However,
instead of offering the women other possible solutions and allowing
them to freely choose, the doctors decided in an authoritarian manner
on the women’s behalf.
“Such an approach has nothing to do with modern
medicine," Zahumenský said.
Doctors must learn to respect patients’ freedom of choice and
their rights. If they not, then they should count on patients turning
to the courts, which are slowly learning to award compensation for such
harms in amounts that are not insignificant even for large hospitals.
The Czech Constitutional Court has repeatedly pointed out that the failure to award sufficient satisfaction for violations of bodily integrity is equivalent to denial of justice. Despite this, "it is taking a very long time for the Czech courts to learn to award the kind of financial compensation that could at least somewhat ameliorate the harm caused by these violations of human dignity," the article stated.
Previous such lawsuits have failed.
- Last October the Constitutional Court rejected a complaint by Helena Ferenčíková, who was awarded an apology from the Vítkovice Hospital, but not the one million crowns compensation she was seeking, due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.
- In 2007 the Regional Court in Ostrava awarded CZK 500 000 to Ms Iveta Červeňáková, also represented by the League. However, the High Court subsequently overturned that ruling due to expiration of the statute of limitations.
In November 2009, the government of Czech PM Jan Fischer expressed regret over these illegal sterilizations, which have primarily concerned Romani women. Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb says measures are forthcoming to prevent similar crimes.
Health care facilities should be able to ensure that women undergoing sterilization have given genuinely informed consent. The Czech Health Ministry should include this question on the program of its Expert Forum for the Creation of Standards of Care.