Thursday, March 01, 2018

European Court Says Psychiatric Patient's Religious Rights Were Infringed

In a Chamber Judgment in Mockute v. Lithuania, (ECHR, Feb. 27, 2018), the European Court of Human Rights held that a Lithuanian woman's privacy and religious exercise rights were violated by the psychiatric hospital to which she had been admitted.  The facts were summarized by the dissenting opinion:
In 2003 the applicant, who at the time was 30 years old and had a long history of mental problems, after a mental breakdown was forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital, where she spent 52 days. While being held there, psychiatrists disclosed information about the applicant's health and private life to a journalist as well as information about her health and treatment to her mother. In a subsequent television programme, parts of this information were released. The applicant furthermore claimed that the regime at the psychiatric hospital did not allow her to practise the religion of the Ojas Meditation Centre, the Lithuanian branch of the Osho religious movement, and that the psychiatrists had worked on her to convince her to be critical of her non-traditional religion.
The court held by a unanimous vote that her privacy rights under the European Convention on Human Rights were violated, and by a vote of 5-2 that her religious exercise rights were infringed.  The Court's press release on the case describes the holding on religious freedom:
[T]wo factors were decisive in concluding that there had been an interference with her right to freedom of religion. First, she had been held unlawfully at the hospital for more than 50 days and had for the most part been under a very strict regime, such that she had been unable either to practise meditation or to visit the Osjo Meditation Centre. Second, the doctors had tried to “correct” her to persuade her to abandon her religion, which they considered as “fictitious”, and she had felt constrained to obey them, even on pain of receiving a diagnosis which would have made her unemployable.
Law & Religion UK has more on the decision.