Tysiac v Poland

Forum: European Court of Human Rights
INTERIGHTS' role: Adviser to applicant's counsel
Keywords: Private life, family life, health, effective remedy, women


This case concerns Alicja Tysiąc, a Polish woman who has suffered for many years from severe myopia. When she discovered that she was pregnant for the third time, she consulted several doctors in Poland to determine what impact this might have on her sight. Although doctors concluded that there would be a serious risk to her eyesight if she carried the pregnancy to term, they refused to issue a certificate authorising termination. Two months in to the pregnancy, her eyesight deteriorated significantly. She secured a referral for a termination on medical grounds but the gynaecologist refused to perform it. There was no procedure through which Ms Tysiąc could appeal this decision and she gave birth to a child in November 2000. Her eyesight deteriorated further following the delivery. She now cannot see objects more than 1.5 metres away, risks becoming completely blind, and requires daily assistance.

In March 2007, European Court of Human Rights found that the Polish legal framework did not provide an effective mechanism to resolve disagreements as to the availability or legality of therapeutic termination in any case, either between a pregnant woman and doctors or between medical staff themselves. Concluding that Poland had violated Ms Tysiąc’s right to respect for private life and noting the severe distress and anguish caused to her, the Court ordered Poland to pay a substantial sum in non-pecuniary damages. In September 2007, the Grand Chamber of the Court announced that it would not be considering the Court's earlier decision.

INTERIGHTS lawyers were advisers to Polish counsel, Monika Gasiorowska and Anna Wilkowska-Landowska, in the case.

INTERIGHTS Contact: Andrea Coomber, Legal Director

Related links

Press Release: [25 September 2007] European Court Confirms Judgment in Polish Access to Abortion Case

Press Release: [20 March 2007] European Court of Human Rights Finds Woman’s Rights Violated by Lack
of Procedure to Access Abortion in Poland

Decision of the European Court of Human Rights

BBC News: Polish Woman Wins Abortion Case

The Guardian: Court Censures Poland for Denying Abortion Rights