Anthrax tests on troops to be conducted 'strictly under supervision'
Published: 02.24.08, 14:19 / Israel News
Following deliberation on petition protesting IDF medical experimentation on
soldiers, government announces Ministry of Health to supervise such
State officials reported to the High Court of Justice on Sunday that all
medical experiments on IDF soldiers are to be conducted only under strict
Health Ministry supervision and approval.
The State also reported to the court that the Health Ministry protocol for
human experimentation is to be implemented in the IDF as standard command.
This announcement was made following a petition brought to the court by the
human rights group Physicians for Human Rights, in conjunction with several
Israeli Defense Force soldiers, protesting medical experimentation on active
duty soldiers in the IDF.
Most prominently, petitioners protested the use of IDF soldiers in secret
experiments testing Anthrax vaccines, codenamed "Omer 2".
Physicians For Human Rights petitioned the High Court three months ago,
demanding that the IDF stop medical experimentation on soldiers, and
demanding the establishment of a commission of inquiry on this matter.
The IDF soldiers petitioning the court demanded that they be compensated for
pain and suffering endured during such experimentation.
The "Omer 2" Anthrax experiment that triggered this petition was held
between 1999 and 2006, and included some 800 IDF soldiers. The experiment
included a series of seven injections, some including an American Anthrax
vaccine, and others a recently developed Israeli formula.
Physicians for Human Right has maintained that the experiment failed to
uphold several ethical imperatives, including garnering the informed consent
of the soldiers in question, as well as following up on their general health
and well being at the conclusion of the experiment.
Israeli law regulates medical experiments on human beings through
sub-ordinances rather than through major legislation. In the IDF, the
legislative status of human medical experiments is even more uncorroborated.
May 17, 2007
TV documentary reveals army tested experimental anthrax vaccines on elite
combat soldiers, but refused to treat them after adverse symptoms appeared
The IDF secretly used elite combat soldiers as "guinea pigs" for
experimental anthrax vaccines, according to an expose broadcast Wednesday
night by the "Uvda" (Fact) documentary program.
Presenter Ilana Dayan revealed how in 2000, the army decided to carry out
anthrax antibody experiments ahead of independent manufacture in Israel.
According to the report, hundreds of young recruits into Israel's elite
combat units were offered the opportunity to partake in a top secret
experiment codenamed "Omer 2". They were led to believe they were performing
a national service of the utmost importance to the state.
The soldiers were told that the antibody had been approved by the American
FDA as far back as 1970 and was used on thousands of American military
personnel. It was explained that the experiment they would undergo
constituted the final phase prior to anthrax vaccine production in Israel,
which would cater to a possible eventuality of a biological attack on
military or civilian populations.
In 2004, a US district judge ruled that the program of anthrax vaccine for
use on American military personnel be stopped due to a series of side
effects experienced by US troops.
Since 2000, the soldiers selected for the experiment underwent a series of
seven inoculations, all carried out in top secret, without even the
knowledge of their commanding officers. When various symptoms such as
serious skin lesions and pneumonia began to appear, the soldiers did not
relate them to the experiment and sought standard medical treatment provided
by the military.
Once soldiers began to suspect that there may be a connection between the
vaccines and their symptoms, they contacted the secret unit in charge of the
program and presented their case. The symptoms, it was explained to them,
had absolutely nothing to do with the inoculations.
Regular army doctors were unable to diagnose the mystery ailments without
knowing what drugs had been administered in the shots.
Nir, a fictitious name, who was interviewed throughout the program, was the
only soldier to receive the full series of seven shots. When forced to
involve his parents after being hospitalized, he tried to find out what the
vaccine contained so that he could receive adequate treatment. He called the
unit begging to be told what he had been given - his request was refused
outright as it was "classified information".
'Citizens can sleep peacefully'
Professor Tzvi Bentowitz, head of the research institute researching
infectious diseases at Ben Gurion University, said, "The fact that this
matter was shrouded in secrecy here while it created such an outcry in the
US is astonishing, to say the least."
The secret medical unit had also contacted the air force in an attempt to
recruit pilots for the experiment, but air force officials refused, saying
that possible side effects could interfere with pilots' performance.
In response, the IDF's chief doctor, Brigadier-General Hezi Levy, told the
program that the citizens of the State of Israel will be happy to know that
Israel has developed its own anthrax vaccine and can now "sleep peacefully".
He added that from now on the army would take full responsibility for any
adverse symptoms experienced by the group of soldiers, and that it would
coordinate treatments with the relevant medical institutions.