MK Begin, committee bash Health Ministry on human experimentation bill

Begin noted that he had been involved in the matter for many years, even before he became an MK.

May 1, 2018 20:08
3 minute read.
MK Begin, committee bash Health Ministry on human experimentation bill

A person receives a test for diabetes during Care Harbor LA free medical clinic in Los Angeles, California September 11, 2014. . (photo credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

The Knesset Science and Technology Committee and Likud MK Bennie Begin lashed out at the Health Ministry on Tuesday for its failure to support a bill to regulate human medical experimentation.

Begin, a former science minister, charged that the ministry suddenly came out against his bill after initially not voicing any opposition. “We met and sat together, and here I suddenly hear for the first time that the ministry opposes my bill,” Begin said. “Why are they wasting our time? We need a law to overcome the rule of officials.”

The committee on Tuesday discussed the legislative progress of the Human Experiments in Human Subjects Law and the proposed Genetic Information Law, both of which were proposed by Begin. The purpose of the two bills, said the Likud MK, is to provide an answer to the method of human experimentation and the use of genetic information in a defined and orderly manner.

MK Uri Maklev of United Torah Judaism said: “Over the past 10 years, various proposals have been proposed in the Knesset to settle the matter, but nothing has been done in practice. I am not willing to lend a hand to the fact that certain things are said publicly but in practice, behind the scenes, other things are being done.”

Begin noted that he had been involved in the matter for many years, even before he became an MK. “I submitted the bills for the fourth time to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, but each time the committee delayed a decision. On one occasion, I was told the implementation of the proposal would incur expenses of hundreds of millions of shekels. Another time, they said it would cost tens of millions. I know only the opposite – that this proposal will bring in millions to the State of Israel every year.”

Prof. Zvi Borochowitz, chairman of the ministry’s Committee for Human Clinical Trials, noted: “It is indeed inappropriate that in a civilized country there should be no human trials law, when there are laws on animal experiments. The committee sat with MK Begin and came out with the decision that this law should indeed be presented. Today, under the defective existing law, simpler and better genetic screening tests for newborns are available, but the law does not allow them.”

Dr. Tom Ran of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, presented information on progress being made globally in the use of genetic knowledge: “Already in the US, everyone can receive accurate information based on a saliva sample. In my research, I am exposed to many people who did not know about their illness, but through biological identification they [learned] a lot.”

Dr. Avital Bir, project manager at the research center at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva, said: “Clinical studies in Israel are flourishing but are in the same place as they were in 2007. Clinical trials can be held only in the hospitals.”

Attorney Michal Naveh of Weizmann added: “Ministry regulations exist, but there is no reference whatsoever to experiments that are already taking place.”

Baruch Shugol, an attorney with Pharma Israel, said NIS 500 million is directly brought into Israel from genetic research, and indirectly, some NIS 1 billion. “The demand of America and Europe from research centers is high because Israel has such a diverse population, so the results are relevant to many population groups. In the US, if within 30 days there is no authorization to conduct research, it is automatically approved.”

Maklev said, “This is not a private problem of MK Begin. It is our duty as public representatives to act on this issue. If the Health Ministry objects, how is it that in the meantime it has not acted to bring about another law?”

No comment was obtained from the Health Ministry by press time.

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