Press Release

IACHR Takes Case involving Chile to the Inter-American Court

September 27, 2016

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 12.695, Vinicio Antonio Poblete Vilches and family, Chile.

The case is related to the actions and omissions that took place between January 17 and February 7, 2001, days in which Vinicio Antonio Pobete Vilches was admitted in two opportunities to the public hospital Sótero del Río, where he passed away in the latter date. The Commission established that in two opportunities the hospital abstained from obtaining the informed consent to make decisions in health issues. Specifically, in the context of a procedure carried out on January 26, 2001, during the first admission to the hospital, as well as in the decision of maintaining him in “intermediate treatment” after he was admitted the second time, during the hours before his death. In addition, the Commission concluded that there are sufficient elements to consider that the decision to discharge Vinicio Antonio Poblete Vilches and the way in which it was done, could have played a role in the fast deterioration of his condition in the days immediately after he left the hospital, and in his death, when he was admitted again in serious health conditions. In addition, the Commission determined the State responsibility for not having provided the intensive care that he needed after his second admission to the hospital. Finally, the Commission considered that the internal investigations were not done with due diligence within a reasonable period of time.

In the Merits Report, the Commission recommended the State to integrally repair the family members of Vinicio Antonio Poblete Vilches for the human rights violations stated in the report, including due compensation for the material and moral damage caused, as well as other measures of moral satisfaction. Moreover, it was recommended to carry out a complete and effective investigation of the violations of human rights in order to provide the family members of Vinicio Poblete Vilches with a clarification of the events, and, if applicable, decide the corresponding penalties. For that reason, the IACHR stated that the State must continue the investigation re-opened in 2008 or, if needed, to begin a new investigation in order to overcome the obstacles which have interfered with justice proceedings.  Finally, the IACHR recommended applying non-repetition mechanisms which include legislative, administrative and other measures that are required for the implementation of informed consent in health issues; the necessary measures, including budgetary ones, to guarantee that the hospital Sótero del Río has the needed infrastructure to provide proper medical attention, particularly when intensive care is required; and the training measures to the judicial operators regarding the need to investigate possible responsibilities derived from the death of one person as a consequence of inadequate health services.

The Inter-American Commission submitted the case to the jurisdiction of the Court on August 26, 2016, because it considered that Chile did not comply with the recommendations established in the Merits Report.

This case will enable the Court to develop its jurisprudence regarding the obligation which derives from the American Convention in matter of informed consent on decisions over a person’s health. In addition, the case will allow further analysis on the State’s responsibilities derived from alleged inadequate health attention in public hospitals, including those derived of structural deficiencies. Finally, the case will also allow the Court to pronounce the specific contents of the duty of investigating and providing effective remedies under the above circumstances.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 139/16