Expert Testimony

Case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel vs. the Brazilian Government

Alyne da Silva Pimentel was a Brazilian woman of African descent whose pregnancy-related symptoms were misdiagnosed by medical professionals at her local health center. Subsequently, there were multiple delays in providing Alyne with the emergency obstetric care she needed, and as a result, she died from pregnancy-related causes.

Alyne’s mother first pursued the case in Brazil, and then brought it to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) when justice was not served on the national level. GDC’s coordinating team member, Dr Wendy Chavkin, and GDC/Brazil’s lead physician, Dr. Cristião Fernando Rosas, served as medical and public health experts for this case. According to a bulletin put out by the World Health Organization in 2012, Alyne’s death exemplified “circumstances that are all too common everywhere: preventable maternal deaths seem to be concentrated among marginalized groups of women and they are marked by a lack of accountability.”

CEDAW convicted the Brazilian government in August 2011 in the first case of maternal mortality analyzed internationally. The unprecedented decision adopted in the Alyne case stipulates that the Brazilian government has the obligation to comply with women’s human rights and to guarantee that all women are in a position to have access to quality prenatal care services.

By recognizing violations of health rights and access to the justice system, the CEDAW Committee requires the Brazilian government to:

  • Indemnify the family of Alyne da Silva Pimentel.
  • Ensure women’s right to safe motherhood and adequate access to emergency obstetric care.
  • Provide adequate professional training for health care workers.
  • Guarantee that private health care services meet local and international standards for reproductive health care.
  • Apply penalties to health care professionals who violate women’s reproductive rights and their right to access to health care.
  • Ensure access to the justice system in cases in which women’s reproductive health rights have been violated and offer training for judges and law enforcement agents.

For more details, refer to UN document: CEDAW/C/49/D/17/2008, dated August 10, 2011.

Advocating for access to safe reproductive health care.