Portugal condemned to pay €39,000 for patient death in “dysfunctional” hospital

Little emphasis is being made today on the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to condemn the Portuguese State to a payment of €39,000 over a patient’s death 18 years ago in what it described as a “dysfunctional public hospital”. But the truth is that this was yet another case where Portuguese justice was found to have been compromised for less than transparent reasons.

In its deliberation, the ECHR considered “that the Portuguese court system had not worked effectively”. Its enquiries had “not been able to establish ‘the causal nexus’ (ie chain of circumstance) between the diseases contracted by the patient, and the surgery to which he had been submitted”.

Fully appreciating the causal nexus, the ECHR said that the fact that the patient had been submitted to a surgical intervention “with a risk of contracting infectious meningitis” should have meant that he received special medical intervention and post-operative care.

The patient’s wife took the case to the ECHR after failing to convince judges here that her husband’s death following surgery for nasal polyps at Vila Nova da Gaia hospital was due to medical negligence.

But despite this court “victory” Maria Isabel Lopes de Sousa Fernandes will not get the €39,000 instantly. Responsibility now passes to the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe which will then have the task of “supervising execution and ensuring that any compensation is paid”.