Inter-american court demands Costa Rica pay for free in-vitro treatment

 

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) issued a condemnation of the government of Costa Rica for banning in-vitro fertilization, judging that the policy “violates human rights by limiting the rights to life, physical integrity, private life and families,” according to a statement issued by the high court.
 
The court came to this ruling after examining the Murillo Artavia case, as well as other, in which the Supreme Court of Costa Rica ruled in 2000. The high court of the Central American republic prohibited IVF. The Costa Rican jurists based their decision on Article 4.1 of the Convention on Human Rights of the Americas, which states that "everyone has the right to respect for his life, and that no one may be arbitrarily deprived of his life", which also determines that "the right to life shall be protected by law and, in general, from the moment of conception." The main thrust of the Costa Rican court is that IVF “affects the right to life, to the extent that Article 4.1 provides absolute protection of the embryo and assisted reproduction technique generates a large loss of embryos.” 
 
In its finding, the IACHR determined that "in this case does not apply Article 4.1 to the extent that, for the reasons set forth therein, the ovum fertilized by leads to a different cell, that if it is not then implanted in the uterus, its chances of survival are nil that it can develop into a person." The IAHCR also refuted the Costa Rican Supreme Court’s argument, stressing that "this analysis cannot lead to the conclusion that the embryo can or should be treated legally as a person, in that conception - according to scientific evidence - takes place from the time when the embryo implants in the uterus." Along those lines, argued the IACHR, regarding “the evidence in the case file, it is concordant to point out that in natural fertilization as in IVF there occur a loss of embryos, so that there is an inherent risk in common even in those processes in which there is no intervention by this technique of assisted reproduction.” 
 
The international court also explained that the words "generally" used in Article 4.1 "involve exceptions to the general rule laid down in that provision." The IACHR indicated that it has interpreted Article 4.1 by "taking into account the main relevant decisions in comparative law and by the protection systems in universal and regional systems of human rights protection." Dissenting from the Costa Rican court’s finding, the IACHR ruled that "infertility is a functional limitation recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO)," whereby "people with infertility in Costa Rica should have been recipients of the rights of persons with disabilities."
 
It is thereby ruled by the IACHR that Costa Rica’s prohibition of IVF "has affected the right to life", and that "in the world were born more than five million people that would not exist but for use of assisted reproduction."  Consequently, the IACHR determined that other rights are also affected by the Costa Rican court’s early ruling, namely, "the right to private and family life, to reproductive autonomy, and access to reproductive health services. The IACHR stressed that people Costa Ricans who have had to travel abroad to access IVF '"have been exposed to disproportionate burdens that have affected private and family life".
 
The IACHR has ordered that the Costa Rican government must pay compensatory damages for material and immaterial damages to victims and take appropriate measures to effective as quickly as possible to end the prohibition of IVF. The court also made policy recommendations to the Costa Rican government, demanding that payment of IVF services should be part of the Central American country’s public health insurance and to also cover psychological treatment free of charge for those who require it.  
 
The IACHR did recognize the right of Costa Rica to "regulate as they deem necessary for the implementation of IVF 'and to establish inspection systems and quality control of institutions and professionals who develop this type of technique assisted reproduction ". However, the IACHR demanded that the Costa Rican government publish the ruling in the official government newspaper and on the Costa Rican Supreme Court’s website.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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