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Hospital’s disposal of still-born child as clinical waste was unlawful

On 7th August 2003 a Croatian national gave birth to a still-born child at a public hospital in Split, Croatia.  The parents did not want to take the child’s remains, leaving the hospital to carry out an autopsy, and burial.  After the autopsy was carried out the hospital disposed of the child’s remains with their clinical waste. 

The parents subsequently tried to find out about their child’s burial without success.  They issued civil proceedings against the hospital.  The Split County Court, and subsequently the Supreme Court of Croatia, found that, under domestic law, the hospital should not have disposed of the child’s remains as clinical waste.  The Court refused compensation as no provision of the law obliged the hospital to inform parents where their still-born child was buried.

On 12th June the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that the hospital had violated Article 8 ECHR, the right to family and private life.   As the Croatian government had not cited any legislation that endorsed the method of disposal the ECtHR found that it was unlawful and awarded damages of €12,300.

To read further commentary from the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) please click here.

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