A premature baby, born in Turkey, was given a number of blood transfusions with blood purchased from the Turkish Red Cross. The baby was later discovered to have been infected with the HIV virus. The baby’s parents, Turkish nationals, brought civil and administrative proceedings against the Turkish Red Cross and the Ministry of Health. The respective courts found that the Turkish Red Cross were at fault for supplying HIV-infected blood and that the Ministry of Health’s staff had been negligent in their duties. The applicants were awarded non-pecuniary damages.

However, following the judgment, the Ministry of Health cancelled the family’s right to free healthcare and medicine. The family, already living in poverty, could not afford the medical expenses of their child’s condition and consequently took their claim to the European Court of Human Rights relying on Articles 2, 6 and 13. The Court found that Article 2 still applied as the national authorities had failed in their positive obligation to protect the right to life of the child by not providing adequate training to the medical staff involved in the transfusion process. The damages awarded by the national courts were not satisfactory, covering only one year’s medical expenses. Therefore, the family were still victims under Article 2. Furthermore, the court found that the administrative proceedings, which lasted nine years, were excessive in length, contravening Article 6 and that, as there was no effective remedy to accelerate the proceedings, this also violated Article 13. Under Article 41 the Court awarded the family an additional EUR300k in pecuniary damages, EUR78k in nonpecuniary damages, EUR3k costs and ordered that the Turkish government was to provide free and full medical cover to the applicant for the rest of his life.

Oyal v Turkey ECtHR [2010]