March 9, 2021

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Poland’s battle with the UK over a brain-dead man

3 min read
Polish government outraged at decision to take man off life support.

WARSAW — A Polish man who died Tuesday in a U.K. hospital after suffering severe brain damage is the cause of a furious ideological battle in his home country.

The middle-aged patient, referred to as RS, suffered a massive heart attack at his home in November, depriving his brain of oxygen for 45 minutes. He was in a vegetative state in a Plymouth hospital with doctors not seeing any prospect for recovery. The decision was made in December to end treatment, supported by his wife. However, the man’s mother and sisters in Poland insisted that he was a practising Catholic and would have wished otherwise.

That turned what had been a family tragedy into a political battlefield for Poland’s nationalist government, its right-wing media backers, and the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

The case reached the European Court of Human Rights in late December. The court dismissed the appeal of the Polish part of the patient’s family to overturn the decision of U.K. courts, allowing RS to be taken off life support.

The legal wrangling also involved Poland’s foreign affairs and justice ministries as well as President Andrzej Duda, who ordered his aide Krzysztof Szczerski to meet the U.K. Ambassador to Poland Anna Clunes last week. The foreign ministry even issued RS a diplomatic passport.

Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Warchoł contacted the U.K.’s justice and health ministries, arguing that RS should be transported to a Polish hospital. The case shows that “the Polish government won’t abandon” people “in trouble in foreign countries,” he said. “I believe that in our tradition there is the protection of life from conception to natural death.”

The man was taken off life support on Tuesday, while an increasing frenzy was unleashed in Poland.

Krystyna Pawłowicz, a judge on the country’s top constitutional court, accused the U.K. hospital of wanting to harvest the Polish man’s organs and compared them to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. After RS’s death, she tweeted: “There should be consequences for the drastic, ostentatious DISREGARD of Poland by Great Britain in such an important matter.”

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki denounced what he called the “barbaric civilization of death.”

The government’s media allies compared the death of RS to those of inmates in Auschwitz.

A Polish government-financed foundation called the Anti-Defamation League demanded that the U.K. judges who made the final decision of taking RS off life support be barred from entering the Schengen zone.

“[The Anti-Defamation League] is asking the Head of the Office for Foreigners for a ban on entry to the Schengen area for British judges who have sentenced a Polish citizen to a cruel death. Judges Lady Justice Eleanor Warwick King, Lord Justice Peter Jackson, and Justice Jonathan Lionel Cohen issued and upheld the order to disconnect the Pole from life support equipment,” wrote the League’s chairman Maciej Świrski.

“The conduct of the above-mentioned judges shows that they are completely alienated from Europe’s legal heritage, which protects every life, especially one that is helpless and medically assisted. Therefore, the Polish state should prohibit them from entering Europe,” Świrski added.

Poland’s ruling right-wing coalition government, led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, is closely allied with elements of the Roman Catholic Church, and has built its electoral appeal by calling on Poland’s traditional and religious values.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Tribunal, the court where Pawłowicz is a justice, published its October verdict toughening Poland’s already strict abortion law. That decision, praised by the government and the church, set off massive anti-government demonstrations.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/poland-battle-uk-brain-dead-man-catholic-church-european-court-human-rights/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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