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Right to say goodbye to dying person: appellate hearing

The family of a deceased prisoner has brought a lawsuit against a prison that prevented them from saying goodbye to their dying relative. The claimants requested that the prison issued an apology and compensated them for moral injuries.

Case of family X

The first-instance court decided that the right to say goodbye to dying prisoner is a personal interest within the meaning of the Civil Code, which must be afforded legal protection. Such an interpretation is derived from a number of sources, including the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, the court argued. The court ruled that the prison administration is obliged to notify the family of an inmate of their deteriorating health if an inmate is unable to do so (in the discussed case, the inmate was receiving strong narcotic painkillers) or if a notification cannot be delivered in time.

Consequently, the court ordered the prison to issue an official apology and ruled that the State Treasury should pay compensation to the deceased’s family members. Both the claimants and the State Treasury Solicitors’ Office have appealed against the first-instance judgment.

HFHR’s involvement

The Helsinki Foundation presented an amicus curiae brief during the proceedings. The HFHR underlined the importance of inmates’ right to maintain contact with families and loved ones. Both the European Prison Rules and the UN-adopted Nelson Mandela Rules stipulate that information about an inmate’s death, serious illness or transfer to a hospital should immediately be passed to the inmate’s next of kin unless the inmate requested otherwise.

On 22 August 2017, a hearing, attended by a representative of the HFHR, was conducted before a court of appeal. The court considered the parties’ oral arguments on key points presented in the appeals. The judgment will be delivered on 31 August 2017.

Follow this link to read about the past Helsinki Foundation’s involvement in this case.


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