Access to your own data

You should have the right to access your own personal data, whether it is held by public institutions, private entities or individuals, except in situations where other important interests have to be safeguarded.
Case summary

K.H. and others v. Slovakia


European Court of Human Rights
28 April 2009

Facts
The applicants were treated in two different hospitals during their pregnancies and deliveries. None of the applicants has become pregnant since their last stay in hospital and suspected that the reason for their infertility might be that a sterilisation procedure was performed on them during their delivery. The applicants attempted to obtain access to their medical records in the respective hospitals. However, they were not allowed by the management of the hospitals to consult and photocopy their medical records. The management of the hospitals stated that there is a risk of a possible abuse of the information by third persons.

Complaint
The applicants complained that they had been unable to obtain photocopies of their medical records.

Court’s ruling
The Court ruled that the restriction of applicants’ access to their medical data was not proportionate. Thus the applicant’s right to private life had been violated.

The Court found that:

  • The state’s positive obligation to protect individual’s right to private life should extend to the making available to the data subject of copies of his or her data files.

  • Individuals should not be obliged to specifically justify a request to be provided with a copy of their personal data files. It is for the authorities to show that there are compelling reasons for refusing this facility.

  • However, the file holder can determine the arrangements for copying personal data files and whether the cost thereof should be borne by the data subject.

  • The risk of potential abuse of information by third persons could have been prevented by other means than denying copies of the files to the applicants. For example, incorporation of appropriate safeguards in domestic law that would limit the circumstances under which such data can be disclosed and the scope of persons entitled to access the files. Therefore the means used by the authority were not proportionate.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education