Mehmet Şentürk and Bekir Şentürk v. Turkey  |2013

Health reforms after a pregnant woman was denied life-saving care

My wife was not cared for with diligence in the hospitals I took her to.

Mehmet Şentürk, quoted in the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, April 2013


On 11 March 2000, Mehmet Şentürk drove his heavily pregnant wife, Menekşe, to hospital suffering terrible pain. A midwife told the couple nothing was wrong.

But Menekşe was still in pain, so they went to another hospital. Once again, a midwife said there were no complications. No doctor was called for.

The couple decided to travel to a third hospital, where a urologist gave Menekşe painkillers and told her to come back after she had given birth.

By the evening, Menekşe was in agony. Mehmet took her to a fourth hospital where staff carried out an ultrasound scan which showed that Menekşe’s unborn baby had died.

Menekşe needed urgent surgery. But the couple could not afford the operation, so a doctor arranged for Menekşe to be transferred to a non-fee-paying hospital in a private ambulance in which no medical staff were present.

Menekşe died on the way.

The authorities launched an investigation, which lasted until 2008. A Turkish court found some medical staff criminally responsible for Menekşe’s death, but their sentences were suspended, keeping them out of jail.

Menekşe’s husband and son, Bekir, appealed against the ruling. Another court dismissed their appeal because so many years had passed since Menekşe’s death that no further action could be taken.

Mehmet and Bekir looked to the European Court of Human Rights for justice.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that Menekşe was denied appropriate emergency care. This violated her right to life.


This judgment was one of several European court rulings finding that the Turkish authorities had failed to protect lives between 1996 and 2005 due to medical negligence or errors in hospitals.

Following the judgments, Turkey brought in reforms to improve healthcare services. These changes have led to a dramatic drop in maternal mortality rates since the early 2000s. The number of stillbirths in Turkey has also fallen significantly in recent years.

Steps were taken to improve care for pregnant women by providing regular monitoring as well as information and counselling services. More training is also being provided to medical workers on reproductive health, including emergency care.

Other important measures introduced since Menekşe’s death include admitting patients to emergency care services regardless of their social security status and without payment in advance, as well as establishing a coordination system between hospitals to ensure rapid access to healthcare in urgent situations.


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