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ECtHR judgement concerning improper health care in prison facilities

The European Court of Human Rights found that Poland violated the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment in respect of a disabled inmate.

The Strasbourg Court proclaimed judgement in the case of D.G. v. Poland. The applicant was detained in 2001. He is paralysed and claims that he developed serious health problems in detention. Because of that it was absolutely necessary to provide him with adequate personal hygiene products and medical accessories such as a catheter, which, as the applicant argues, were given to him too rarely considering his needs. All this resulted in a further deterioration of his health and new ailments.

The applicant also claimed that the prison facilities had not been adjusted to his needs, for example, they had not been adapted to the use of a wheelchair. In its application the applicant argued that the administration of the prison facility in which he served his sentence failed to provide him with proper health care thus claiming the violation of Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The Court had no doubts that the applicant had been detained in a penitentiary facility which had not be adopted to the needs of prisoners in wheelchairs. “The Court noted that detaining persons suffering from a serious physical disability in conditions inappropriate to their state of health, or leaving such persons in the hands of their cellmates for help with basic activities of daily living, amounted to degrading treatment in the meaning of the Convention”, says Katarzyna Wiśniewska, HFHR lawyer.

The Court observed that conditions in prison, where the applicant had been detained, had interfered with his ability to be independent, at least in some of his daily routines. This, in the Court’s assessment, placed him in a position of absolute dependence on his fellow inmates and caused him both mental and physical suffering.

“This is yet another case against Poland which raises the issue of improper medical assistance in prison facilities and remand centres”, says Maria Ejchart, HFHR lawyer. “The application touches upon a very serious problem of securing proper conditions of imprisonment for disabled detainees”, says Ms Ejchart.

The HFHR, together with the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the European Disability Forum (EDF), has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case.

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