Costa Rica, Supreme Court of Justice. Constitutional Chamber, 9 February 2022, No. 02891 - 2022
Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Further areas addressed
Outcome of the decision
Link to the full text of the decision
The Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica ordered a public hospital to perform surgery on Claimant within one month. One month later, Claimant filed an amparo action stating that he required compliance with the decision, as he had not yet undergone surgery, and requested that his right to health be guaranteed. The hospital said that it had not been able to perform the surgery due to the pandemic.
The Court found that there was a reasonable justification for not performing the surgery on the Claimant, which was the pandemic, and the guidelines issued by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund to reorganize public health services.
Facts of the case
On December 9, 2021, the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica ordered the General Director and the Chief of the Urology Service of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, a public hospital, to perform a surgical procedure on Claimant within one month of the judgment.
One month later, on January 18, 2022, Claimant filed an amparo action indicating that the surgery he required had not been performed, requesting that it be executed.
The hospital indicated that on January 22, it had hospitalized Claimant for the surgery he required, but that on January 24, a positive case of COVID-19 was detected in the Hospital, for which reason the Claimant was discharged to safeguard his right to health. It also indicated that he would be admitted again when there was authorization for the admission of elective surgery patients.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
The Court indicated that in the December ruling ordering the surgery to be performed, it was stipulated that it should be performed on Claimant as long as it was possible, by the reorganization of the service decreed of the hospital emergency due to the pandemic, and that if it was not possible, it should be performed after the pandemic had passed, as long as it was not possible to do it before.
The Court noted that the Defendant authorities, the Hospital's directors, stated that it had not been possible to perform the surgery due to the health emergency of the pandemic since there was a case of COVID-19 during Claimant’s hospitalization. Therefore, all the persons admitted for elective surgeries were discharged.
In this regard, the Court found that there was a reasonable justification for the fact that the surgery had not yet been performed, which was the pandemic, and the guidelines issued by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund to reorganize the public health services to address the health emergency. Thus, it pointed out that the lack of medical attention indicated was not attributable to the hospital.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court found that there was a reasonable justification for not performing the surgery on the Claimant, which was the pandemic, and the guidelines issued by the Social Security Fund of Costa Rica to reorganize the public health services.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Right to an effective remedy
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
General principle applied
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
Regarding the principle of reasonableness, the Court indicated that it was reasonable for the Court that, for COVID-19 reasons, the surgery had not yet been performed to address the current health emergency.