Case of Y.Y v. Russia

Applications nos. 40378/06
Download Judgment: English

The applicant gave premature birth to twins. One of the twins died nine hours after her birth. The second twin survived after being transferred to an intensive care unit. The applicant stated that the first child would have survived too if had been promptly transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. She sent letters to the President of the Russian Federation. The Administration forwarded the said letters to the Ministry of Healthcare. The Committee for Healthcare was asked to look into the matter. The Committee found that the infant had been found to be under respiratory distress and other complications. She had been provided with appropriate treatment but such cases carried a risk of death not less than 80%. The applicant was refused a copy of the said report. She brought new proceedings against the Committee’s decision and also stated that the Committee’s actions were unlawful as it had examined her medical records and those of her children’s and had communicated the report to the Ministry without obtaining her consent. The District Court dismissed her application. The St. Petersburg City Court further dismissed her appeal.

The Court held that there had been violation of Article 8 of the Convention. The Court stated that highly sensitive information such as number of previous pregnancies not resulting in deliveries was mentioned in the report. The Court further stated that the actions were not in accordance with the law as the Committee did not rely on any domestic law provisions for its said actions. It further disagreed with the lower courts, which stated that the Committee was duty bound to provide information to the Ministry: they failed to refer to any domestic law provision, which gave them the authority to do so.

“In the present case, the applicant’s medical records and those of her children were collected and examined by the Committee for Healthcare at the St Petersburg City Administration, acting at the request of the Ministry of Healthcare of the Russian Federation prompted by the complaints of the applicant’s mother. The report prepared by the Committee and sent to the Ministry contained information from those records, in particular, information of a private and sensitive nature about the applicant, including the number of her previous pregnancies not resulting in deliveries. At no stage of that process was the applicant’s consent sought or received.” (Para 40)

The Court observes that the Committee did not rely on any provision of domestic law in carrying out the actions in dispute. In the ensuing judicial review proceedings it was found that those actions had complied with Article 61 of the Basic Principles of Public Health Law, a federal law which provided for the guarantee of non-disclosure of confidential medical information without a patient’s consent (see paragraphs 25 and 26 above). The decisive question is to what extent the actions in dispute were foreseeable by the applicant.” (Para. 52)

“The Court further notes that, in finding that the Committee’s actions in collecting, examining and disclosing the applicant’s medical data to the Ministry did not violate the confidentiality of the applicant’s medical data, the domestic courts relied on the general duty of the Committee to provide the Ministry with detailed information in reply to the latter’s requests. In so doing, they failed to refer to any provisions of domestic law on which their finding could have been based.” (Para. 55)