L.M. v. Latvia

European Court of Human Rights
19 July 2011


Neighbors of the applicant, Ms. M., called an ambulance and police because Ms. M. was throwing things out of the window and was preparing to jump out of it herself. The medics found that the applicant is suffering from a mental disease and she was taken to the psychiatric hospital. It was decided by a panel of doctors that in-patient medical treatment was necessary for the applicant. The applicant stayed in hospital for approximately 3 weeks until she was discharged from it. 


The applicant complained that her compulsory confinement in a psychiatric hospital violated Article 5 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

The Court stated that for an involuntary hospitalization to be lawful it must have basis in law and it has to follow fair and proper procedures established by law. The Court emphasized that in cases of involuntary hospitalisation the existence of formalised admission procedures, a requirement to fix the exact purpose of admission, clear time-limits for continued medical treatment and regular review of persistency of the necessity are some of the requirements of the lawfulness of the placement. 

In the particular case the Court found that the wording of the relevant law at that time allowed the panel of psychiatrists too much discretion. The psychiatrists could prescribe in-patient treatment for unlimited period of time, without providing information about the purpose of involuntary treatment or taking into account the opinion of the patient. Neither the panel of psychiatrists nor any other authority were empowered to assess whether other less restrictive means of treatment would also be sufficient. Additionally, the Court condemned the fact that there was no possibility to appeal the decision of the panel of psychiatrists. Therefore, because of the lack of safeguards against arbitrary detention, the Court ruled that the applicant’s involuntary hospitalisation could not be considered lawful.

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Last updated 08/11/2023