By: Marie LeRoy
Impunity Watch News Staff Writer
STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) reverses a District Court judgment and finds that Armenia failed to protect Slavik Voskanyan’s right to life through its negligent provision of medical services.
On October 7, 2010, Plaintiff’s husband, Slavik Voskanyan, was arrested under suspicion of murder and armed assault. Voskanyan was placed in an Armenian detention facility while he awaited trial. Eleven days later, Voskanyan began complaining of pain in his left shin. One of the detention facilities’ doctors immediately began treating Voskanyan for his injury. On October 19, the doctor noted that “crepitation was observed upon palpation” of Voskanyan’s shin and that “brown pus with an unpleasant smell” was found within the injury.
On October 21, a different detention doctor went to check Voskanyan’s injury and reported to the chief detention facility doctor that Voskanyan’s injury was getting worse. The doctor noted that they believed that the “infected area may possibly spread” and that Voskanyan was experiencing severe pain. Three days later, Voskanyan was finally transferred to the local hospital with the intention that he undergo surgery on his shin. Voskanyan, however, succumbed to the infection and died the same day in the hospital.
A forensic investigation was immediately commenced, and a panel of experts were consulted. The experts concluded that the detention facility doctor did not diagnosis Voskanyan correctly. The experts indicated that the October 19 examination should have alerted the doctor to the seriousness of the injury and the presence of an infection diagnosis like “gangrene.” They noted that the doctor should have recognized Voskanyan’s injury deterioration and reacted accordingly by changing the treatment method. The panel further concluded that the doctor, when noting the “crepitation” and “unpleasant smell,” was “obliged” to send Voskanyan to the hospital for treatment. The panel of experts finally concluded that it might have been possible, if the doctor employed the correct treatment and response, to prevent Voskanyan’s death.
Despite these findings, multiple Courts have dismissed Voskanyan’s wife’s claims for medical negligence because it is unclear whether Voskanyan’s shin injury originated and was made worse through methods of self-harm.
However, the ECHR found for Voskanyan’s wife, deciding that the domestic authorities did not do everything that was “reasonably possible, in good faith and in a timely manner” to save Voskanyan’s life. The ECHR stated that the dentition facility had a duty, because Voskanyan was “under their control”, to protect his life and that Voskanyan’s own actions were irrelevant to that duty. Therefore, the ECHR reversed the prior decisions finding for the Armenian government and held that the Armenian government must pay Voskanyan’s wife twenty thousand euros worth of damages.
For further information, please see:
Voskanyan v. Armenia – ECHR—24 Jan. 2023