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Court: Lithuanian law prohibiting professional medical assistance for home births did not breach mothers’ rights

Human rights judges confirmed today that a Lithuanian law prohibiting professional medical assistance for home births did not breach mothers’ rights.

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Kosaitė – Čypienė and Others v. Lithuania (application no. 69489/12), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned Lithuania’s law on medical assistance for home births. The applicants, four women, had unsuccessfully requested that the Ministry of Health amend the legislation that prohibited medical professionals from assisting in home births.

The court found that Lithuania had struck a fair balance between the interests involved: namely, the mothers’ right to respect for their private life against the State’s interest in health and safety.

In particular, the four women could have opted for any one of the maternity wards created in Lithuania since the 1990s to ensure home-like conditions for women giving birth, in particular in Vilnius where they lived. Additionally, postnatal care was available if an emergency had arisen during or after a delivery at home.

Moreover, although Lithuania had recently changed the law on home births, it had not actually been required to do so under the European Convention given the great disparity between the legal systems of the Contracting States on the matter.

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