Patients’ rights in domestic courts
Ukrainians who have suffered from doctors’ mistakes are normally pessimistic about their chances of gaining redress in domestic courts, while going to international structures is time-consuming and daunting. However at a press conference on 31 January human rights activists demonstrated that justice can be found closer to home.
In 2005 in the Mariupol Hospital No. 3 (Donetsk region) three new-born babies were given donor plasma which was later found to have been contaminated. Infected blood had on a number of occasions found its way into the hospital due to the lack of proper control by the medical staff.
A criminal investigation was initiated against the Chief Doctor under Article 131 § 2 of the Criminal Code (negligence or failure by medical staff to conscientiously carry out their professional duties resulting in the infection of two or more people with HIV). In October 2006 the Zhovtnevy District Court in Mariupol acquitted the Chief Doctor. The court of appeal revoked this ruling and sent the case back for additional investigation. Following this investigation, the Deputy Chief Doctor of the blood transfusion station was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and stripped of the right to occupy managerial positions for 2 years and engage in medical activities for one year. The victims each received 20 thousand UAH in compensation.
Legal assistance in the case was provided with the financial support of the International Renaissance Foundation which financed projects of the Institute of Legal Research and Strategy on strategic protection in healthcare over three years.
Another court victory concerned a woman from the Lviv region who lost her children due to inadequate medical care during labour which lead to the baby’s death and grave consequences for the woman herself. She asked the court to oblige the district hospital to pay the medical damages – expenses for doctors, diagnosis etc, consisting of just over 5 thousand UAH and moral compensation, estimated on the basis of a court-psychological expert assessment at 116 thousand UAH.
The court awarded smaller damages – 303 UAH for material damages and 30 thousand in moral compensation, but then the court of appeal increased the amount of moral compensation to 80 thousand.
This case was supported by a lawyer from the Medical Law and Bioethics Foundation which has considerable experience in medical cases and has won a number of patients’ rights cases.
Aigul Mukanova, spokesperson for the Institute of Legal Research and Strategy stressed that victory is possible but only if people are prepared to fight for their rights.