A.S. v. Hungary
Forum: Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
On 2 January 2001, a Romani woman (Ms A.S.) was sterilised by doctors at the Fehérgyarmat hospital without her consent. During preparation for a caesarian section operation to remove a dead foetus, Ms A.S. was asked to sign forms giving her consent to this operation as well as to her sterilisation. However the doctors did not explain the procedure, its nature, possible risks, or what the consequences of being sterilised would be. Only after the operation did Ms A.S. learn that she had been sterilised.
On 15 October 2001, Ms A.S. and her attorney filed a civil claim for damages against the hospital. On appeal, the Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg County Court held that the hospital doctors had indeed acted negligently, because they had not informed Ms A.S. of "the exact method of the operation, of the risks of its performance, and of the possible alternative procedures and methods". Nevertheless, the same Court concluded that since Ms A.S. had provided no proof that she had suffered a lasting detriment, she was not entitled to compensation.
On 12 February 2004, the ERRC and the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities (NEKI) jointly filed a complaint with CEDAW relating to the illegal sterilisation under the CEDAW optional protocol. In August 2006, the Committee found the Hungarian government to be in violation of the Convention. The Committee recommended the Hungarian government provide appropriate compensation to Ms A.S.; review domestic legislation on the principle of informed consent in cases of sterilisation and ensure its conformity with international human rights and medical standards; and monitor public and private health centres, including hospitals and clinics that perform sterilisation procedures to ensure that fully informed consent is given before any sterilisation procedure is carried out. A year later, the Committee expressed concern at the Hungarian Government's failure to implement the Committee's recommendations and again urged the Hungarian government to "provide appropriate compensation to Ms A.S."
In 2008, the Hungarian Government amended the Public Health Act to ensure that appropriate information be provided to patients in the context of sterilisation procedures to ensure informed consent. However, in March 2008 the Hungarian government advised the ERRC that it would not provide compensation to Ms A.S.
After eight years of national and international legal proceedings, in February 2009 the Hungarian Government finally decided to compensate Ms A S, which was completed in June 2009.
In its Written observations submitted to the CEDAW Committee, the ERRC welcomes the financial compensation of Ms A S, but call for further amendments with regards to the legislation on sterilization procedures.