The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that the Supreme Court of Iceland violated the rights of a nine-year-old girl by reversing a Reykjavík District Court verdict and ruling instead that the state bore no responsibility for her disability.
“Is it possible to sink any lower than to violate the human rights of a child with multiple handicaps and deprive it of its legitimate compensation,” the girl’s father, Eggert Ísólfsson, told Morgunbladid in reference to the Supreme Court.
Shortly after Sara Lind Eggertsdóttir was born at the state-run National Hospital of Iceland on March 5, 1998, she became severely ill and suffered brain damage, leaving her 100 percent permanently disabled.
Four years later Reykjavík District Court ruled that the disability had been caused by medical mistakes and that Sara was entitled to compensation in the amount of ISK 28 million (USD 453,000, EUR 334,000). But four years later the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, acquitting the state.
According to Sara’s lawyer, Heimir Örn Herbertsson, the Supreme Court did not act professionally during the case. Three days before the verdict, the court announced that the opinion of the Medical Council was required to determine what had caused the girl’s disability. Four members of the council worked at the National Hospital, leading Herbertsson to conclude that their opinion was not objective.
In ECHR’s finding it says that the Medical Council had probably not used objective reasoning and that the 6th article of the European Convention on Human Rights on a person’s right to a fair trial had been violated.
ECRH ruled that Sara is entitled to ISK 6.4 million (USD 104,000, EUR 76,000) in compensation and over ISK 1.5 million (USD 24,000, EUR 18,000) in reimbursed legal fees.
Iceland’s Medical Director of Health Matthías Halldórsson, who is also the head of the Medical Council, told Morgunbladid that the council had become an obsolete entity and calls for amendment to the laws surrounding the council.
“Senior physicians […] are of course not in a position to determine whether the hospital is right or wrong as they are employed by the hospital. But it is not their fault – and not the Medical Council’s fault – but a fault in the laws that we are obligated to comply with,” Halldórsson concluded.