THE EUROPEAN Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is holding a hearing today after a Jehova’s witness filed a lawsuit against Spain because she received a blood transfusion from a Madrid hospital. While the procedure saved her life, it was against her express wishes due to her religious beliefs. 

The applicant is an Ecuadorian national who is resident in Soria, Spain. 

Following medical tests carried out in July 2017, she was advised to have surgery. Beforehand, however, she issued three documents – an advance directive, a lasting power of attorney and an informed consent document – which all registered her refusal for any kind of blood transfusion in any healthcare situation. This included the possibility that her life were in danger. 

In June 2017, according to a statement from the ECHR, she was admitted to hospital in Soria and then the next day taken to a hospital in Madrid due to haemorrhaging. 

Anaesthesiologists at the hospital contacted a duty judge when they discovered that she was a Jehovah’s Witness. The judge, however, was not aware of her identity nor her wishes, and authorised all the medical or surgical procedures that were necessary to save her life. 

That day, surgery was performed and blood transfusions administered.

The patient was not informed of the duty judge’s order, according to the ECHR, despite being conscious as she was taken to the operating theatre.

New blood donors in 2022 rose by 20% in Spain's Costa Blanca and Valencia areas
Ahmad Ardity Free Pixabay image

There is a dispute between the parties, however, as to whether she was lucid at the time. 

In the Spanish legal system, the decision taken by the duty judge was upheld on appeal. A subsequent appeal at the Constitutional Court was declared inadmissible. 

In March 2020, she took her case against the Spanish state to the ECHR, a tribunal that was set up in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.  

After today’s hearing, at which the woman will give evidence, the magistrates will deliberate in private before issuing their ruling at a later date.

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