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Armenia to Pay EUR 12 000 to Family of Dead Pregnant Woman, ECHR Rules

69-year-old Armenian citizen Albert Movsisyan in 2009 lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, insisting that the Armenian authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the death of his 22-year-old pregnant daughter.

On 7 September 2007 at 10 p.m., according to the case materials, K.M., who was in the early weeks of pregnancy at the time, was at home with her parents and husband when she fainted and began to have convulsions. An ambulance was called, which arrived 40-45 minutes later. Upon arrival, the ambulance doctor, A.G., found K.M. nearly unconscious, with impaired breathing and low blood pressure. According to the applicant, the doctor was told at that point that K.M. was pregnant. A.G. diagnosed a convulsion syndrome, gave K.M. two injections – one of relanium and one of magnesium – and took her to hospital. On the same day A.G. and the nurse drew up an ambulance visit record stating that they had arrived seven minutes after receiving the ambulance call and that they had administered only one medical injection, of relanium. On 14 September 2007 K.M. died in hospital without ever regaining consciousness.

On the same day the Avan and Nor-Nork District Prosecutor’s Office of Yerevan launched an inquiry into her death and ordered an autopsy, which was also carried out that day. According to its report, K.M. died from general intoxication of the organism, caused by an impairment of vital brain function, which in turn had been caused by extensive and diffuse thrombosis of neuro-vessels.

In the course of the inquiry the investigator ordered a forensic medical investigation to be carried out by a panel of experts. According to the results of the opinion, the injection of relanium 2 mg and magnesium 3 g by the ambulance crew had been correct at the given moment, taking into account the patient’s condition − that is to say convulsion syndrome − and the injection of the given quantity of those substances was not contra-indicated.

On 27 February 2008 the investigator decided to reject the institution of criminal proceedings for lack of corpus delicti.

On 30 April 2008 the applicant lodged a complaint with the Avan and Nor-Nork District Court of Yerevan concerning the investigator’s decision of 25 April 2008 seeking the institution of criminal proceedings against A.G. and the nurse. The applicant submitted, in particular, that the panel of experts performing the additional forensic medical investigation had not taken due account of his arguments, which had been based on relevant medical literature and Government decrees. He reiterated his arguments with regard to the contra-indication of relanium and magnesium in cases of pregnancy and low blood pressure.

On 26 May 2008 the Avan and Nor-Nork District Court of Yerevan dismissed the applicant’s complaint, finding that the inquiry into K.M.’s death had been thorough and adequate.

On 16 July 2008 the applicant lodged an appeal against this decision with the Criminal Court of Appeal. He argued, in particular, that the District Court had failed to question A.G. and the nurse. Furthermore, the District Court had not adequately addressed their arguments concerning the injection of K.M. with substances that were contra-indicated, given her condition, or the over-dosage thereof which, he alleged, had caused her death. On 4 September 2008 the Criminal Court of Appeal dismissed the applicant’s appeal and upheld the decision of the District Court. On 30 September 2008 the applicant lodged an appeal with the Court of Cassation against the decision of the Court of Appeal; the examination of the appeal, however, was refused by the Court.

In a ruling issued on November 16, the European Court held that unanimously that there has been a procedural violation of Article 2 of the European Convention for Human Rights and ordered that Armenia is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 12,000, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage.