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Four Senior Physicians Arrested For Illegal Esxperiments On Elderly Patients

Jonathan Lis and Ran Reznick

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ongful death through negligence, abuse of helpless victims, aggravated assault, fraud, violation of a statutory obligation and interference in an investigation.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court yesterday extended the remand for Levy and Kagansky by three days and put Smirnov under house arrest for five days. A fourth suspect was released. Police searched the homes of all four suspects and confiscated documents.

A report by a Health Ministry inquiry committee, whose findings were revealed in Haaretz, found that illegal and unethical experiments were conducted over several years, in a systematic manner, on thousands of elderly patients. At least one patient is suspected of having died as a direct result of one of the experiments. In addition, 12 patients died either during or shortly after one of the experiments, but the incident was not reported to the Health Ministry or investigated, in contravention of the law.

Haaretz reported the charges in March 2005, two months before the state comptroller released a scathing report of its own on the matter.

At least four doctors at Hartzfeld and Kaplan became known as geriatrics experts on the basis of research allegedly based on illegal experiments. Some doctors submitted articles to medical journals in Israel and abroad on the basis of the experiments, which appear to have provided a foundation for their professional and academic advancement.

The Health Ministry report found that doctors violated the law by experimenting on patients who either did not provide consent or were not mentally capable of providing consent. Some of the experiments did not have any medical or scientific benefit, and some were conducted even though senior doctors warned that they were illegal and unethical.

The report sharply criticized the hospitals' Helsinki committee for human experimentation, saying that by approving inappropriate experiments, it failed in its mandate to protect the public interest. The report also blasted the hospital administration for failing to do anything about the flawed procedures, despite receiving complaints and information about what was going on in the hospitals.

Committees to control experimentation with human subjects were established in hospitals in accordance with Health Ministry protocol implementing the Helsinki Accord signed in 1964, which came in response to human experiments conducted by the Germans in World War II. The comptroller found that experiments approved by the Helsinki committee included genetic experiments and research studies involving drugs not yet certified for use in Western nations.

The comptroller's report features a laundry list of grave oversights and continuous negligence on the part of the Health Ministry and public hospital management regarding their supervisory role in the experiments.