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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. SUR
Jehovah's Witness takes Spain to court over her life-saving blood transfusion
Human rights

Jehovah's Witness takes Spain to court over her life-saving blood transfusion

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hear the woman's complex case after a Madrid hospital gave her blood transfusions against her will, but with the approval of a duty judge

Susana Zamora

Madrid

Wednesday, 10 January 2024, 13:25

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will today, 10 January, hold a public hearing to investigate the case of a Jehovah's Witness who reported Spain to the court because a hospital in Madrid gave her blood transfusions against her will but with the approval of a duty court.

According to the Strasbourg court, it will hear the allegations of the Ecuadorian woman, who lives in Soria, that as a Jehovah's Witness she is absolutely opposed to blood transfusions and to the donation and storage of blood and blood products.

The woman received a blood transfusion in a Madrid hospital in 2018 due to a haemorrhage. In 2017 she had been recommended to undergo surgery, when she signed an advance directive, a power of attorney and an informed consent document; in all three she underlined her refusal to receive blood transfusions of any kind, even if her life was in danger, but agreed to accept any medical treatment that did not involve the use of blood.

In 2018, she was admitted to Soria Hospital, but due to a haemorrhage she was transferred to Madrid. The doctors, on learning that she was a Jehovah's Witness, contacted the judge on duty for instructions.

The corresponding judge, who was unaware of the patient's identity and wishes, authorised all medical procedures necessary to save her life. The same day, surgery was performed and blood transfusions were administered, without the patient being informed of the court order, even though "she was still conscious when she was taken to the operating theatre".

In the course of the proceedings, the parties still dispute whether or not the woman was fully lucid at the time. She did not agree with the duty judge's decision and appealed, but the court upheld the decision. Before going to the ECHR, the woman took the matter to the Constitutional Court who declared her claim inadmissible.

So she took her complaint to Strasbourg against Spain for alleged violation of respect for privacy and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, both of which are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

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