Avilkina and Others v. Russia
European Court of Human Rights
6 June 2013
The applicants were members of a religious organization - Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Prosecutor’s office carried out an investigation into the lawfulness of this organization and requested all the hospitals in the region to inform the office of any occasion when the members of the organization have refused a blood transfer because of religious reasons. The hospitals reported to the Prosecutor’s office about the applicants’ refusal of blood transfer.
The applicants complained that the disclosure of their medical data had violated their right to private life.
The Court ruled that there had been a violation of the right to private life of the applicants, as the means used by the prosecutor were not proportionate.
The Court emphasized that a disclosure of medical data may seriously affect a person’s private and family life, as well as their social and employment situation, by exposing the person to opprobrium and the risk of ostracism.
The Court found that:
- The interests of a patient in protecting the confidentiality of medical data may be outweighed by the interest of investigating and prosecuting a crime.
- However, the applicants were not suspects in criminal investigation, the prosecutor merely conducted an inquiry into the activities of the applicants’ religious organization.
- The facts reported by the hospitals showed nothing but the free will of the applicants to refuse blood transfer, with no pressure exerted by others regarding religious beliefs.
- The means used by the prosecutor were disproportional, as he had not tried to find the needed information by other less oppressive means, for example, by obtaining applicants’ consent and questioning them.
- The fact that the applicants could object to the disclosure of their medical information only after it was already in the prosecutor’s possession, did not afford them sufficient protection against unauthorized disclosure.