Judges today ruled that Finland’s decision to confine a paediatrician to a mental health hospital where she was injected forcibly with drugs breached human rights laws.
In its judgement of the case of X v. Finland (application no. 34806/04), which is not final , the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 8 (right to protection of private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court held that Finland was to pay the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 8,000 for costs and expenses.
The case concerned the confinement of a paediatrician to a mental health hospital and her being forcibly administered with drugs , in the context of criminal proceedings against her for aiding and abetting a mother to kidnap her daughter, suspected of being sexually abused by her father.
The Court found that the paediatrician’s involuntary confinement in a mental hospital as well as her being forcibly injected with drugs had been based on a law which lacked proper safeguards against arbitrariness.
The applicant, X, is a Finnish national who was born in 1943 and lives in Finland. Paediatrician by profession, she continued working in her own practice after she retired.
On 18 April 2001, X was arrested on suspicion of having helped a mother kidnap her own daughter. The child had been taken into public care in June 2000 because of the mother’s state of mental health; the mother had retained the right to spend time with her daughter. Following a health check-up in mid-December 2000 at X’s practice, the mother and daughter left but the girl did not return to the family support centre where she was expected.
The child remained with her mother until April 2001 when she was found by the authorities. X was released on 25 April 2001. In the criminal proceedings brought against X on 18 April 2001, she was charged with having deprived the girl of her liberty between December 2000 and April 2001, and having influenced the mother to abduct the child. In the course of the proceedings, the court ordered X to undergo a psychiatric examination. She then went into hiding.
X was arrested again in October 2004. The court ordered her detention and from there her transfer to a mental institution, Vanha Vaasa, where she was taken in November the same year. An in-house doctor concluded that she suffered from a delusional disorder and that she met the criteria for involuntary confinement.
In February 2005, the Board for Forensic Psychiatry of the National Authority for Medico-legal Affairs (the Medicolegal authority) ordered, on the basis of the Vanha Vaasa’s doctor’s proposal, her involuntary treatment in that mental hospital. The Board considered that, if untreated, X’s condition would considerably worsen.
As of March 2005, the hospital started injecting X with Zyprexa and then Risperdal Consta, as she consistently refused to take those two medications orally. She was finally released from hospital in January 2006 and her treatment was officially terminated in June of the same year.
In 2005, X unsuccessfully challenged before the Supreme Administrative Court her placement in psychiatric care. Following two subsequent decisions to continue her treatment, taken in July 2005 and January 2006 by the hospital’s head doctor, she appealed before the administrative courts, to no avail. X also repeatedly challenged, before different authorities including the Medico-legal authority, the ombudsman and the police, the fact that she was forcefully given medication in the mental-health hospital.
However, those institutions found that they were either incompetent to interfere with the administering of medication, or that no offence had been committed.
In February 2005, referring to the conclusion of the Medico-legal authority that X could not represent her own interests in the criminal proceedings due to her mental illness and having obtained her lawyer’s agreement, the court appointed a trustee to her.
X opposed the appointment of a trustee without giving any reasons for that, and further argued that he did not look after her interests as he had failed to ask for an oral hearing before the court of appeal and had not questioned the correctness of her psychiatric examination. The courts rejected her appeals.
At the end of the criminal proceedings, the courts found that X had been responsible for aiding and abetting the mother to kidnap her daughter in December 2000, but was criminally unaccountable because of her mental-health state. In January 2007 she was prohibited from dealing with cases of suspected child abuse in her private practice.