Father who was banned from seeing his child born wins important battle

The Covid pandemic placed a lot of restrictions on the society and resulted in a large number of court cases in which people sought compensation. A father who was banned from seeing his child born has now won an important battle over his rights.

Ondřej Pecák’s daughter was born in April 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the strict measures in place he was not allowed to be present at the birth as planned.

“I spent the day in the parking lot desperately trying to negotiate with the hospital staff for them to let me be with my wife and see my child born. All my arguments were futile. I felt totally powerless.”

Ondřej was not the only father who missed one of the most important moments of his life. Hundreds of others around the country were in a similar plight. Citing the state of emergency in place hospitals mercilessly closed their doors to all.

Photo illustrative: Kristýna Maková,  Radio Prague International

However, unlike the vast majority of fathers, who accepted the ban, Ondřej fought for his rights, taking the matter to court.

He claimed 50 000 crowns in psychological damage for himself and the same sums for his partner and daughter. However, both the District Court for Prague 2 and the Municipal Court in Prague ruled against his complaint, moreover claiming that “a father’s presence at the birth of his child does not constitute a fundamental right”.

Ondřej Pecák filed a complaint against the verdict at highest court in the land – the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic. And the close to three-year-long court battle finally swung in his favour, giving other fathers reason to hope that they too might be successful.

The court ruled that Ondřej Pecák was entitled to compensation for the fact that he could not be present at the birth of his child because a father's presence at the birth is part of the right to family life. “The birth of a child is a very significant, perhaps THE most significant moment in family life, a strong emotional experience which strengthens the bond between mother, father and child,” Judge Vojtěch Šimíček said.

Photo illustrative: Jiří Němec,  Radio Prague International

The case will now go back to the Municipal Court which will have to review its verdict regarding compensation. Although it opens the possibility for compensation to others, the courts will have to decide on a case by case basis and only those who defended their right at the time appear to have a real chance of being awarded compensation. Ondřej Pecák says the drawn-out battle was worth it.

“I hope this verdict will inspire others, who feel they have been wronged, to seek justice. We are not there yet, but this verdict goes to show that it is worth it to fight for your rights and not give up at the outset.”

The Constitutional Court’s ruling that a father’s presence at the birth of his child is part of the right to family life, and therefore a fundamental right, sets a significant precedent which maternity hospitals and the health system will register.

Moreover, this week the Health Ministry launched a new register of information and statistics accessible to the public from which expectant mothers can find out more about individual maternity wards around the country, how many children were born there, how many pregnancy complications occurred or Cesarean sections were performed. All this will be another important step in boosting the rights of mothers and patients in general to information.