Vinicio Antonio Poblete Vilches and Family v. Chile (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Merits, Case 12.695, April 13, 2016)

This case was brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) by three family members (“Petitioners”) of Mr. Vinicio Antonio Poblete Vilches (“V”) against Chile, regarding V’s death at Sótero del Río Public Hospital (“Hospital”). The petition alleged that V’s death was caused by the attending doctors’ negligence, as they performed a major operation on V without the requisite informed consent. The doctors then forged the authorization form and discharged him while he was still in a serious condition and had open, infected wounds. When V was promptly re-admitted to the hospital in need of urgent medical care, he was denied access to such treatment due to the lack of available beds in the hospital’s intensive care unit. The petitioners received contradictory and unclear information regarding the cause of V’s death and the hospital denied their autopsy request.

Following this, the Petitioners’ initiated a criminal complaint alleging culpable homicide against the hospital doctors responsible for V’s care in 2001. From 2001-2008, this complaint bounced between the First Civil Court (“Civil Court”) and the Court of Appeal of San Miguel. During the Civil Court proceedings, the police report and the report of the forensic physician concluded that V died due to the seriousness of his medical complications, and not from medical oversight.

In 2005, one of the petitioners initiated a second criminal complaint against unnamed persons for V’s death. In 2006, the Legal Medical Service Report also failed to find any medical oversight in V’s treatment and eventual death. The petitioners also applied to the Supreme Court of Justice four times between 2011 and 2015, and each time the Supreme Court denied their request to examine the case, stating that it was unable to intervene in “concluded proceedings.”

The petitioners argued that the investigation into V’s death was unnecessarily prolonged and delayed and that they were discriminated against based on economic grounds, since they did not have the resources to afford a lawyer to represent their interests against the experienced lawyers the doctors hired. They argued that they experienced serious harm as a direct result of V’s “passive euthanasia,” including significant pain and suffering, as well as severe health problems, and their eventual descent into poverty.