Non-consensual collection of personal medical data about forceful sterilisation contrary to Article 8 ECHR

The applicant in the case of L.H. v Latvia (52019/07) gave birth by Caesarean section in 1997 in Cēsis District Court. The surgeon also performed tubal ligation during the delivery, thereby effectively unlawfully sterilising the applicant. The applicant thereafter claimed damages from the hospital and was successful. However, the Latvian Inspectorate of Quality Control for Medical Care and Fitness for Work (MADEKKI) initiated inquiry in the procedures at the Hospital and thereafter transmitted findings, including personal medical data, without her consent to the hospital director. The applicant claimed before Latvian violations of right to privacy, however her claims were rejected as unfounded before all judicial instances in Latvia. However, the European Court of Human Rights noted that :

…  that the protection of personal data, not least medical data, is of fundamental importance to a person’s enjoyment of the right to respect for his or her private life as guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention. Respecting the confidentiality of health data is a vital principle in the legal systems of all the Contracting Parties to the Convention. It is crucial not only to respect the sense of privacy of a patient but also to preserve confidence in the medical profession and in the health services in general (para. 56)

and concluded :

… the MADEKKI appears to have collected the applicant’s medical data indiscriminately, without any prior assessment of whether the data collected would be “potentially decisive”, “relevant” or “of importance” …. for achieving whatever aim might have been pursued by the MADEKKI’s inquiry. In this context it becomes less relevant whether the staff of the MADEKKI had a legal duty to maintain the confidentiality of personal data.. (para. 58).

Therefore, the Court found that Latvia violated Article 8 of ECHR as the intereference was not compliant with the law as it breached applicant’s right to respect for private life. The essence of the case was that applicant could have legally expected that the state authorites will not collect her personal medical data, however their failed to comply with their negative obligation to do act in accordance with the law.

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