Four senior doctors at the Kaplan Medical Center's Harzfeld Geriatric Hospital, suspected of carrying out illegal medical experiments on hundreds of elderly patients, faced the inside of a court room for the first time Monday evening as part of the ongoing investigation into their alleged abuse of those patients.
Police said the charges filed against the four, who appeared in Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, could include abuse of helpless victims, assault under aggravated circumstances, causing death through negligence, fraud, forgery, and obstruction of an investigation, and added that additional suspects would be investigated in the coming days.
On Monday morning, the four, including Kaplan Medical Center's former assistant director Shmuel Levy, were brought to the National Fraud Squad's Bat Yam offices for questioning. Investigators said they believed the four were involved in experiments that were carried out on elderly patients - often suffering from degenerative dementia - who were hospitalized at the facility.
Police said the experiments were carried out illegally and without notifying or obtaining the permission of the patients' families. According to suspicion, at least one elderly woman died as a result of the experiments, which were allegedly conducted between 2000-2003.
In the course of the investigation, the doctors' houses were searched, and detectives seized dozens of documents that they said were pertinent to the investigation.
The investigation was initiated after a complaint was filed with the Central District Police by the Health Ministry comptroller. Due to the gravity of the claims, Investigations and Intelligence Division head Cmdr. Yochanan Danino decided to transfer the investigation to the National Fraud Squad, which has a long history of expertise and success in investigating "white-collar crimes."
In early May of 2005, former state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg severely faulted the Health Ministry for negligence and carelessness in supervising hospitals' clinical trials on patients, some of which involved potentially harmful invasive tests and treatments, and for taking eight years to prepare legislation to regulate such experimentation.
The scandalous violations, according to the comptroller's report, were most flagrant in geriatric, rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals, where patients are the most incapacitated and unable to look out for their own interests.
Goldberg's report cited consent forms for a medical trial at the Harzfeld Geriatric Hospital that had allegedly been signed by a 101-year-old woman and a 91-year-old woman without a relative or a legal guardian having signed the form.
Records showed that in other Harzfeld experiments, seven patients - some of them older than 90 - "signed" consent forms with only their inked fingerprint, even though their medical records showed they suffered from serious cognitive deficits (dementia), thus raising the possibility that their fingerprints were taken against their will.