X v. Finland

(Involuntary placement & mental health care – Administration of drugs)
European Court of Human Rights
3 July 2012


The applicant was arrested in connection with criminal proceedings that had been brought against her. The court ordered the applicant’s transfer to a mental health care institution, where a doctor concluded that she suffered from a delusional disorder and met the criteria for involuntary confinement. The Board for Forensic Psychiatry of the National Authority for Medico-Legal Affairs ordered the applicant’s involuntary treatment. She was released from the hospital only a year later. 


The applicant among other things complained that she had been subjected to the forced administration of medication in breach of Article 8 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

General principles:

The Court reiterated that a medical intervention without the consent of the patient interfered with the patient’s private life. This interference could be considered justified only if it had been prescribed by law, it had a legitimate aim and it was necessary to achieve this aim. Moreover, the measures taken to achieve this aim must be proportional. 

In the present case:

The Court found that in the case in issue, the basis for forced administration of medication could be found in Finnish law. However, the regulation lacked certain quality to be considered ‘law’ by the Court. Specifically, in the context of forced administration of medication, the domestic law had to provide some protection for the individual against arbitrary interference with his or her rights. As the doctors could decide to treat the applicant without her consent or consent of her relatives, as well as there was no judicial review of the decisions of the doctors available to the applicant, the Court found that the Finnish regulation did not constitute a law in the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention. It could not be said that the interference with the applicant’s rights was prescribed by law. Thus the Court ruled that there has been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention.

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