Year: 2010 (Date of Decision: 30 November, 2010)
Forum, Country: Constitutional Court; Colombia
Standards, Rights: Non-discrimination and equal protection of the law; Human dignity; Right to health; Right to education; Children; Persons with disabilities
Summary Background: This case was filed by a mother, on behalf of her intellectually disabled daughter, against EPS Coomeva, a State health care provider in Colombia. The child required an integrated program of therapy and special education and the mother asserted that EPS Coomeva violated her daughter’s fundamental rights to health, development, and bodily integrity in denying a disabled child the comprehensive care she needed. EPS Coomeva argued that it was the State’s obligation to provide educational services, that special education is not a health service but an educational one and that the applicant was required to pay in accordance with her means.
Holding: The holding of the Court was that EPS Coomeva has violated the child’s right to health by refusing to provide comprehensive treatment and was obligated to provide the child with the treatment she needed. The court thus ordered EPS Coomeva to coordinate with local education agencies to attain a comprehensive medical assessment of the minor, as well as to ascertain the medical and educational services required for her disability [paras. 6.4 and 7].
The Court cited Colombia’s obligations under the ICESCR and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, requiring the State to ensure that persons with disabilities are not denied educational opportunities on the basis of disability, as well as the obligation to ensure reasonable accommodation based on each individual’s requirements [paras. 5.6.1. and 126.96.36.199.2]. On the issue of State’s obligation to provide education, the Court affirmed that the local governments have to guarantee availability, access, permanence, and quality while providing education [para. 5.5]. The Court held that education for people with disabilities should preferably be inclusive and special education should be a last resort, but necessary if the same level of education cannot be provided at regular institutions [para. 188.8.131.52].
The Court also highlighted that children are subject to a special constitutional protection and that this is particularly enhanced with regards to children with disabilities [para. 5.3]. For vulnerable populations, such as persons with disabilities, health providers needed to provide comprehensive care comprising services not included in the State’s mandatory plans. The existence of specialized educational institutions should not be an excuse to deny access to comprehensive medical treatment for children with intellectual disabilities.
As per the Court’s analysis, in the case of a person with intellectual disabilities, State obligations related to health and education must be analyzed in a holistic manner to ensure dignity and equality. The Court observed that there were gaps in the cooperation between health and education agencies as regards protection of disabled people. Therefore, the Court ordered the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Protection to collaborate and in the process thereof, invite the participation of civil society, so as to define their areas of work, create better synergy and plan appropriate mechanisms to meet the needs of the population with disabilities [paras. 6 and 7].
Link to Full Case: http://www.corteconstitucional.gov.co/relatoria/2010/t-974-10.htm