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ECJ says patients must be reimbursed for necessary surgery abroad

[JURIST] [JURIST Europe] In a decision that some observers have hailed as a victory for "health tourism", the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled [judgment text] on Tuesday that domestic health service programs must pay for patients who go abroad to another EU state to have needed surgery. The major criterion is the patients must be facing "undue delay" that exceeds the medically-accepted waiting period.

The ruling was made in a suit brought by 75-year old British citizen Yvonne Watts, who was refused reimbursement for surgery she obtained in France in 2003. Watts had been informed by the British National Health Service (NHS) [official website] that she would have to wait a year for a double hip replacement despite being told otherwise by a medical consultant. The decision has already prompted fears of more financial strain being imposed on European health services already facing rising costs. The Court of Appeal in London, which originally referred the case to the ECJ, will now determine whether Watts is entitled to a refund in her particular case. BBC News has local coverage. The EUobserver has more.

Angela Onikepe is an Associate Editor for JURIST Europe, reporting European legal news from a European perspective. She is based in the UK.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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