Report: IDF anthrax tests unethical

Supreme Court approves release of information on trial vaccine program; info on side effects withheld.

anthrax 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
anthrax 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
IDF soldiers were not informed of the risks when agreeing to participate in a secret experiment testing a trial vaccine against anthrax earlier this decade, according to a report approved for release by the Supreme Court on Wednesday evening. The Israel Medical Association found that the method used to recruit soldiers for the experiment violated "the ground rules regarding experiments on human subjects," and that "crucial information concerning possible side effects and the risks involved was withheld from the soldiers." The IDF's Helsinki Committee - created to review conditions for human experimentation - did not do its job in protecting human subjects, the report said. The release of the document by the court marked the first time that Israel publicly admitted that in the course of trying to find a vaccination against the deadly disease, it experimented on 716 soldiers without telling them key details regarding the test. The document cast doubt as to whether the experiment served any operational purpose, and said that selecting soldiers as the sample group was itself a violation of ethical principles. Those conducting the experiment failed to inform soldiers about the dangers of the vaccine and of possible side effects, the report said. The consent form and the information sheet contained serious errors, the report said. The report also found errors in some of the follow-ups that were supposed to be carried out on the soldiers. In the report, the panel of medical professionals concluded that the IDF should not be allowed to carry out medical experiments without the oversight of a civilian body. It also recommended giving the results of the experiments to the participants as soon as possible, and that an independent body should be established to monitor the medical conditions of the experiment's participants. They added that in addition to offering medical care to the participants in this experiment, legislation be considered to define IDF soldiers as a "sensitive population" with regards to medical experimentation. In response, the Defense Ministry said that the research protocol had been approved by the IDF's Helsinki Committee and by the Health Ministry. The Defense Ministry also stressed that the Defense Ministry, Health Ministry and IDF had taken "full responsibility" for all side effects suffered by participants in the tests.