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Abuse of Conscientious Objection in Poland: Short Summary of Doctor Chazan Case


In June 2014 Polish weekly “Wprost” revealed a shocking case of a woman, 22 weeks pregnant whose fetus was diagnosed with multiple, severe and irreversible malformations, was denied a legal abortion by professor Bogdan Chazan, director of the public Holy Family Hospital (Szpital ÅšwiÄ™tej Rodziny) in Warsaw. Moreover, prenatal testing and procedures were extended so as to prevent the woman from seeking an abortion elsewhere and she was not referred to another doctor despite the fact that the Polish law on conscientious objection demands that.

The child which was born as a result of Chazan’s decision died after 10 days. Prenatal diagnosis was fully confirmed and there was no chance of its survival.

On 3 July the Minister of Health informed that the National Health Fund (NFZ) imposed a penalty of 70 000 PLN ( ca. 23 000 USD) on the hospital due to the violation of patient’s rights and failure to act according to current provisions. Later that month Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz finally dismissed doctor Chazan from the position of director of the HolyFamilyHospital in Warsaw.

Doctor Chazan appealed with the labour court against his dismissal. Meanwhile 42% of Polish gynaecologists support the removal of conscientious objection clauses from the law. Polish bishops have also openly expressed their support for his actions.

In the aftermath of the Chazan scandal one district (poviat) in Mazovia Voivodship changed its provisions concerning a local hospital stating its work is fully based on the principle of protection of human life. Head of Mazovia Voivodship Jacek KozÅ‚owski decided this newly amended provision ought to be nullified as it could lead to abuses in medical practice (interpreting the clause to protect fetal life over the life of women). Polish Ombudsperson Irena Lipowicz has recommended the Ministry of Health to amend provisions on conscientious objections so that its application by doctors would not stand in the way of women’s rights.

The woman who was the victim of doctor Chazan’s decision demands 1 000 000 PLN compensation for personal damages caused by his abuse of conscientious objection.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

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