HUN-2000-3-005

a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c)  / d) 27-10-2000 / e) 36/2000 / f)  / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 105/2000 / h) .

Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:

01.03.05.15

Constitutional Justice - Jurisdiction - The subject of review - Failure to act or to pass legislation.

03.16

General Principles - Proportionality.

03.22

General Principles - Prohibition of arbitrariness.

05.01.01.04.02

Fundamental Rights - General questions - Entitlement to rights - Natural persons - Incapacitated.

05.03.01

Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to dignity.

05.03.03

Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

05.03.04

Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to physical and psychological integrity.

05.03.05.01.02

Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Individual liberty - Deprivation of liberty - Non-penal measures.

Keywords of the alphabetical index:

Patient, psychiatric hospital, right / Legal capacity, limited / Autonomy, restricted / Mental retardation, disability.

Headnotes:

It is contrary to the principle of personal autonomy embodied in the right to human dignity (Article 54.1 of the Constitution) to restrict the right to consent to medical services and the right to refuse medical treatment in the case of an incompetent patient and a patient whose legal competency is limited.

In addition, the Constitutional Court held that Parliament created an unconstitutional situation by failing to regulate the statutory conditions for the application of methods and procedures that strictly restrict the psychiatric patients' right to liberty. As a consequence, there is no sufficient legal guarantee for the right to be free from degrading and inhuman treatment.

Summary:

A group of petitioners sought to challenge the constitutionality of some provisions of the Health Act concerning the rights of patients, specifically psychiatric patients. The petitioners contended that the provisions infringed the constitutional right to human dignity, the patients' right to liberty, and thus their right to personal autonomy.

Under the Health Act, incompetent patients and patients with limited legal competence cannot exercise their rights to consent to medical services or refuse specific kinds of treatment. The Constitutional Court held that this rule limited the right to personal autonomy of patients with limited legal competency in a disproportionate and, consequently, unconstitutional way.

According to the Court, methods and procedures which limit patients' rights to personal liberty in a psychiatric hospital, cannot be justified if they lead to degrading and inhuman treatment. In addition, the limitation of the right to personal liberty should comply with the constitutional test applied by the Court. Under this test the restriction of a fundamental right must be necessary and proportionate with the aim to be achieved. The Health Act does not comply with this constitutional requirement, since when regulating the use of coercive measures the Act does not list the main methods that can be applied in the case of psychiatric patients. Nor does it specify the reasons that can justify the use of coercive measures. Therefore the Health Act does not exclude the possibility of an arbitrary application of the law.

The Court did not hold unconstitutional the provision of the Health Act, according to which there is no need for the consent of the patient if the medical service is needed to avert serious danger to the life or health of others. The Court also upheld the provision of the Act, under which incompetent patient and patients with limited legal competence have the right to consent to medical service only in the case of invasive treatments. Finally, the Court did not find unconstitutional the additional rules contained in the Health Act that only apply to psychiatric patients.

Supplementary information:

Five Justices attached separate opinions to the decision.

Languages:

Hungarian.