(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has appointed, together with the Justice and Public Security ministries, a committee of experts to examine forensic medicine as it is practiced in the country. It will be headed by Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov, an economist.
They will look into the legal infrastructure and professional hierarchy running the L. Greenberg Forensic Medicine Institute in Abu Kabir, with the aim of ensuring its independence while at the same time creating the possibility that additional groups may make an input in the field.
The members will include: Justice Ministry director-general Ami Palmor; Israel Police investigations head Dep.-Ch. Uri Machlouf; Dr. Guy Rotkopf, an expert in criminal law and laws of evidence; Rabbi Ya’acov Rozeh, a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council and an expert in burial and identification of the dead; Prof. Ephrat Levy-Lahad, joint chairman of the National Bioethics Council and director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s genetic institute; and Prof. Iris Barshack, head of the pathology department at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Medical School.
The country’s sole forensic medicine institute was established in 1954. In its early years, it served as a department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1975, it came under the auspices of the Health Ministry and since 1988 has been affiliated with Sackler.
In June 2004, then-health minister Dan Naveh placed it under the the management of Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, a government hospital in Tzrifin. In 2012, the institute was brought back under the responsibility and management of the ministry.
The institute conducts autopsies to investigate sudden and suspicious deaths, accidents, suicide, homicide, suspected malpractice and sudden-infant-death syndrome in babies. It identifies victims (especially in disasters with mass casualties) and tests victims of physical and sexual violence in order to provide medical testimony in courts across the country. The institute also teaches forensic medicine, salvages organs for transplants, and has a library of biological and tissue samples.
Despite its valuable work, the institute is housed in an outdated building that cannot meet its basic needs and ensure the safety of its 44 employees. Israel’s forensic profession is not considered attractive by young doctors and has a poor image due to a scandal involving the alleged “misplacing” of body parts by a former director.