Friday, October 30, 2020

European Court Rules On Jehovah's Witness Right To Payment For Surgery Without Blood Transfusion

In A. v. Veselības ministrija, (Eur. Ct. Justice, Oct. 29, 2020), the European Court of Justice instructed a Latvian court on the criteria to apply in a case in which a Jehovah's Witness child living in Latvia needed heart surgery, but the family had religious objections to blood transfusions. The operation was available in Poland, but not in Latvia, without a transfusion. Latvia's health service refused to pay for the procedure to be done in Poland. The family claims that this amounts to illegal discrimination based on religion. The court concluded:

Article 8(5) and (6)(d) of Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare, read in the light of Article 21(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, must be interpreted as precluding a patient’s Member State of affiliation from refusing to grant that patient the authorisation provided for in Article 8(1) of that directive, where hospital care, the medical effectiveness of which is not contested, is available in that Member State, although the method of treatment used is contrary to that patient’s religious beliefs, unless that refusal is objectively justified by a legitimate aim relating to maintaining treatment capacity or medical competence, and is an appropriate and necessary means of achieving that aim, which it is for the referring court to determine.

Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.