Health Ministry to supervise IDF medical experimentation

Clinical trials of antidotes to anthrax and nerve gas use "volunteers" who are subsequently accepted to elite fighting units or get certain privileges.

gas mask drill 2 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
gas mask drill 2 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Human medical experimentation may no longer be conducted in the Israel Defense Forces without Health Ministry supervision and the observance of "informed consent" guidelines similar to those relevant to clinical experiments in the civilian population. This achievement, initiated by the Physicians for Human Rights-Israel organization and veterans who presented their case before the High Court of Justice, will be in effect now without a law, and go "on the books" when a government bill on clinical trials is passed by the Knesset. Among the examples of such experimentation were soldiers who had "volunteered" to be tested with experimental antidotes against anthrax, nerve gas and other toxic substances. Clinical trials have been going on in the IDF for decades, with soldiers formally having to "volunteer" but many actually being pressured to agree to be accepted to elite fighting units or to get certain privileges. The participants were in many cases not informed what pills or other substances they were taking or about the possible risks. Those whose lawyers filed the case claimed that although they were completely healthy when joining the military, they suffered from acute symptoms immediately after taking them for several days and developed chronic disorders less than a decade or two after their discharge from service. The physicians' group expressed its satisfaction with the agreement, except the state's refusal to halt immediately all experimentation on soldiers and allow its resumption only when the bill is passed in the Knesset. In the interim, a modified version of existing ministry supervision procedures will apply to experimentation by the IDF Medical Corps as well. The Medical Corps has just opened a special office for accepting health complaints of participants in medical experiments, informing them exactly what substances were tested on them and receiving requests for disability payments. In a few days, an order by the ministry director-general's office will be recognized as an official IDF order to be observed throughout the military. The Israel Medical Association, which set up an investigation committee after such complaints were voiced by some veterans, declined to make public the protocols from the committee meetings. The IMA, whose committee has completed 90 percent of their work, claimed that doing so would interfere with the committee's deliberations.