Croatia: Procedures for obtaining medical reports from within Croatia; access to medical records; whether they can be obtained from abroad through a proxy, and if so, requirements and procedures; whether doctors are obliged to report cases of violence, including domestic violence, to the police [HRV104095.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Procedures for Obtaining Medical Records in Croatia

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the president of the Croatian Association for the Promotion of Patients' Rights (CAPR), an NGO in Split that is an advocate and promoter of patients' rights, and the Coordinator of the Women's Room, an NGO in Zagreb that advocates for women's rights and provides support for women who are victims of sexual violence, both stated that there are no specific procedures for obtaining medical records within Croatia (CAPR 19 June 2012; Women's Room 12 June 2012).

2. Access to Medical Records

The president stated that Article 23 of the 2004 Patients' Rights Protection Act provides the legal right for Croatian citizens to obtain copies of their medical records (11 May 2012). However, the president noted that this right is sometimes violated, as CAPR sometimes receives requests from patients or their lawyers, asking for help in obtaining the patients' medical records (CAPR 11 May 2012). She explained that people are normally unable to obtain copies of their medical records from hospitals, but are usually able to get them from their family doctors for a small fee (ibid.). The awareness of medical staff that patients' rights are "not efficiently protected" contributes to the difficulties patients have in accessing their medical records (ibid.). However, the Women's Room coordinator reported that in her experience, people have not encountered difficulties obtaining copies of their medical records (28 May 2012).

A lawyer with the Croatian Legal Centre, a non-governmental human rights organization in Zagreb that engages in legal education and advocacy, stated that legislation gives patients the right to demand the totality of their medical records and to make copies of them at their own expense (13 June 2012). However, the president of CAPR stated that the legislation does not indicate whether patients have a right to the entirety, or merely to extracts, of their medical records (CAPR 11 May 2012). The president noted a case in which a patient received a partial copy of his medical records but was unable to obtain a missing component (ibid.).

3. Obtaining Medical Records from Outside Croatia by a Proxy

Information about obtaining of medical records from outside Croatia by a proxy could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Whether Doctors are Obliged to Report Cases of Violence, Including Domestic Violence, to the Police

The president and the coordinator stated that doctors are legally required to notify the police or the authorities of all episodes of physical injury that are produced by violence, including domestic violence (CAPR 11 May 2012; Women's Room 28 May 2012). According to the Coordinator, this requirement is stipulated in Article 22 of the Medical Profession Act, as recorded in the Official Gazette 121/03, 117/08: the doctor is obliged to send a report to the police or to the state attorney's office if the physician suspects that death or physical injury of a patient is a consequence of violent acts (ibid.). She explained that the injuries induced by violence are recorded on a form, called the "Hospital Report," which is forwarded to the police (ibid.). She also noted that the legal duty of doctors to report instances of domestic violence is also mentioned in the Protocol on Protection from Domestic Violence (ibid.). The lawyer similarly reported that the Domestic Violence Protocol, 2005-2006, obliges doctors, if they have a patient who is a victim of domestic violence, to write a medical report that mentions any harm that was done to the patient, and to notify the police of the incident on a form specifically for this purpose (Croatian Legal Centre 14 June 2012). The lawyer's viewpoint is that the patient would have a right to obtain this medical report (ibid.).

The Coordinator stated that the hospitals routinely report cases of substantial bodily harm, but that medical staff rarely report minor injuries (28 May 2012). In her experience, doctors are frequently unfamiliar with the procedures for reporting violence, and it is highly unusual for doctors to report cases of domestic violence to the police (Coordinator 28 May 2012). The people who are hospitalized due to domestic violence receive a "discharge letter" upon their departure from the hospital, while those victims of violence who received medical examinations but were not hospitalized receive reports of the examinations (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Croatian Assocation for the Promotion of Patients' Rights (CAPR). 19 June 2012. Correspondence sent by the President to the Research Directorate.

_____. 11 May 2012. Correspondence sent by the President to the Research Directorate.

Croatian Legal Centre. 13 June 2012. Correspondence sent by a lawyer to the Research Directorate.

Women's Room. 12 June 2012. Correspondence sent by the Coordinator to the Research Directorate.

_____. 28 May 2012. Correspondence sent by the Coordinator to the Research Directorate.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives of the following organizations did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response: Bolnicki Clinic; Centre for Women's Studies; Clinical Hospital Center Rebro; Croatia-Ministry of Health, Office of the Croatian People's Ombudsman; Croatian Medical Chamber; Croatian Victim and Witness Support Services; General Hospital Dubrovnik; Health Power House; Physicians in Dubrovnik, Split, Osijek and Zagreb; Polyclinic MEDICO; School of Public Health at the University of Zagreb; University Hospital Centre; Vinograndska Hospital.

Internet sites, including:Access!NFO; Amnesty International; Autonomous Women's House; Balkanalysis; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Comité de liaison pour la solidarité avec l'Europe de l'Est; Council of Europe-Commissioner for Human Rights; Croatia-Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice; The Croatian Times;; Factiva; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group-Balkans; Open Society Institute; Physicians for Human Rights; Radio France Internationale; Reporters without Borders; Stop Violence Against Women; UNHCR-Refworld; U.S.Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.