The case concerns an application brought by a French national, Mrs. Thi-Nho Vo, who attended the Lyons General Hospital for a medical examination scheduled during the sixth month of pregnancy. On the same day another woman, Mrs. Thi Thanh Van Vo, was due to have a coil removed at the same hospital. Owing to a mix-up caused by the fact that both women shared the same surname, the doctor who examined the applicant pierced her amniotic sac, making a therapeutic abortion necessary. Following a criminal complaint lodged by the applicant and her partner, the doctor was charged with causing unintentional injury and the charge was subsequently increased to unintentional homicide. The Lyons Criminal Court acquitted the doctor; however, the Lyons Court of Appeal overturned the Criminal Court’s judgment, convicted the doctor of unintentional homicide, and imposed a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 10,000 francs. The decision was reversed by the Court of Cassation, holding that the facts of the case did not constitute the offence of involuntary homicide; it thus refused to consider the fetus as a human being entitled to the protection of the criminal law. Vo maintained that the disruption of her pregnancy should have been classified as manslaughter.

In seeking redress at the European Court of Human Rights, she alleged that the absence of a criminal remedy in within the French legal system to prevent and punish the violation perpetrated against her violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.