Tysiac Against Polish Government

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2006-02-10 15:09:56 / News read 3467 reading
Alicja Tysiąc is a 35-year-old Polish national who lives in Warsaw. Having suffered for many years from severe myopia (approximately –20 dioptres in each eye), the applicant decided to consult several doctors when she discovered in February 2000 that she was pregnant for the third time, as she was concerned that her pregnancy might have an impact on her health.

The three ophthalmologists whom the applicant consulted each concluded that there would be a serious risk to her eyesight if she carried the pregnancy to term. However, they refused to issue a certificate for the pregnancy to be terminated on therapeutic grounds, despite the applicant’s requests to that effect. The applicant also consulted a general practitioner, who issued a certificate stating the risks to which her pregnancy exposed her on account of both the problems in her retina and the consequences of giving birth again after two previous deliveries by caesarean.

By the second month of her pregnancy, in April 2000, the applicant’s myopia had already deteriorated to a level of –24 dioptres in each eye.

Ms Tysiąc was given an appointment on 26 April 2000 at the gynaecology and obstetrics department of a public hospital in Warsaw, with a view to terminating the pregnancy. She was examined by the head of the department, Dr R.D., who found that there were no medical grounds for performing a therapeutic abortion. The applicant was therefore unable to have her pregnancy terminated and gave birth to her third child by caesarean in November 2000.

Following the delivery, the applicant’s eyesight deteriorated considerably as a result of what was diagnosed as a retinal haemorrhage. A panel of doctors concluded that her condition required treatment and daily assistance and declared her to be significantly disabled.

The applicant lodged a criminal complaint against Dr R.D., but the investigation was discontinued by the district prosecutor on the ground that there was no causal link between the doctor’s decision and the deterioration of the applicant’s eyesight. Moreover, no disciplinary action was taken against the doctor.

Ms Tysiąc, who is raising her three children alone, is now registered as significantly disabled and on that account receives a monthly pension equivalent to 140 euros. She cannot see objects more than 1.50 metres away and fears that she will eventually become blind.

The applicant considers that she satisfied the statutory conditions for access to abortion on therapeutic grounds. She maintains that the fact that she was not allowed to terminate her pregnancy in spite of the risks to which she was exposed amounted to a violation of Articles 8 (right to respect for private life) and 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. She further alleges that Poland has breached its positive obligation under Article 8 in that no procedural and regulatory framework has been put in place to enable a pregnant woman to assert her right to a therapeutic abortion, thus rendering this right ineffective. Relying on Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), she also submits that she did not have an effective remedy in respect of these infringements of her right to respect for her private life. In addition, the applicant complains under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her sex and her disability.


Decisions, judgments and further information about the Court can be found on its Internet site (

Registry of the European Court of Human Rights
F – 67075 Strasbourg Cedex
Press contacts: Roderick Liddell (telephone: +00 33 (0)3 88 41 24 92)
Emma Hellyer (telephone: +00 33 (0)3 90 21 42 15)
Stéphanie Klein (telephone: +00 33 (0)3 88 41 21 54)
Beverley Jacobs (telephone: +00 33 (0)3 90 21 54 21)
Fax: +00 33 (0)3 88 41 27 91

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. Since 1 November 1998 it has sat as a full-time Court composed of an equal number of judges to that of the States party to the Convention. The Court examines the admissibility and merits of applications submitted to it. It sits in Chambers of 7 judges or, in exceptional cases, as a Grand Chamber of 17 judges. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe supervises the execution of the Court’s judgments.
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