Access to medical care

While you are in prison, you should have the opportunity to see a doctor whenever there is such need. The prison administration must ensure that you can consult a qualified doctor without unjustified delay.

Access without undue delay

According to Latvian law, you should be able to see a doctor without undue delay in all cases. However, in emergency situations the doctor must be called as soon as possible. If it is not an emergency situation, there may be some delay depending on the doctor’s working hours, the number of other patients the doctor has to see, and other circumstances. 

example If you want to see a doctor late in the evening because you think that your eyesight has deteriorated during the last year, it is permissible for you see a doctor during one of the following days. However, if you are experiencing severe pain, a doctor must be called immediately.

Mandatory health checks

Initial examination

According to Latvian law, you must be examined by a doctor within 3 days of your first arrival at the prison. This is important, firstly, to see if you are in need of medical attention, and secondly, to record your state of health upon arrival in order to be able to later verify that your health has not deteriorated while you were in prison. 

During the initial examination the doctor should ask for general information about your state of health and record it in your medical file. You should be allowed to meet with the doctor alone, unless the presence of a guard is absolutely necessary for safety reasons during that particular visit. 

Annual health checks

In addition, Latvian law provides that you should be seen by a doctor at least once a year. 

Health check after conflict

You also have to be seen by a doctor if you have been involved in a violent conflict or if the prison staff have used force against you. During regular check-ups or other visits, the prison doctor has a duty to take note of, record and report any signs of violence you may have suffered to the prison administration. 

example If you have bruises on your face and it looks like you have been beaten, the prison doctor should note this in your file and report it to the prison administration.

Solitary confinement

A doctor’s approval should be given before your placement in solitary confinement. 

Quality of medical care

If you are sick, injured or have other health issues while serving a prison sentence, you should get appropriate medical treatment. The treatment you receive must be thorough and effective and follow the same standards of safety and quality as medical care provided in the general community.  

Access to medical institutions outside the prison

Generally, you will have access to a doctor and basic medical care in prison. However, if you need medical treatment that the prison doctor or hospital is unable to provide, you must be transferred to a general civil healthcare institution. 

Bear in mind that the prison doctor will decide whether you need to be taken to a doctor or hospital outside the prison. 

What human rights violation may there be?

Prohibition against inhumane or degrading treatment

If you are not given access to a doctor or there has been undue delay in providing the medical treatment you require, it may lead to a violation of the prohibition against inhumane or degrading treatment, or in the most serious cases, even torture. 

However, to be considered as inhumane or degrading treatment or even torture, the effect of the lack of medical care or inappropriate medical care, on your physical and mental condition, has to be sufficiently severe. Read more about how to evaluate whether your rights have been violated. 

Right to life

Where a prisoner has died because he/she has not received the necessary medical care or inadequate medical care has been provided, it will be a violation of their right to life. Read more about how to evaluate whether the right to life has been violated. 

How to complain

If you believe that your rights have been violated, you should complain to the Latvian prison administration or Health Inspectorate. Read more about how to complain.

Human Rights Guide

A European platform for human rights education