Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Israeli government agrees to hand over data on anthrax vaccine tests

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Last update - 02:14 19/02/2008

Soldiers sue government over harmful anthrax tests

The state informed the High Court of Justice yesterday that it assumes full responsibility for the treatment of soldiers harmed during the testing of drugs countering the anthrax bacteria. The state was responding to a petition brought against senior officials last month by 34 soldiers who had been part of a biological weapons research project code named Omer-2.

In its response, the state insists that the tests were carried out by the military authorities in line with accepted medical and ethical standards, through the application of strict safeguards, and with the authorization of all relevant parties.

The state also said that there were no mistakes in the experiment. However it also said that "the defense establishment carries full responsibility for the treatment of soldiers who were injured by their participation in the research," and accepted the request of the soldiers to provide them with complete medical information and documents relevant to the experiment.

The documents will be given to the soldiers "with a minimum number of deletions that are necessary for security purposes."

The state was responding to a petition filed on behalf of the 34 soldiers by attorneys Boaz Ben-Tzur and Michael Sfard against the defense minister, the chief of staff, the chief medical officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and the minister of health.

The petitioners argued that hundreds of soldiers were involved in the Omer-2 project in 1999, and that they received an injection of a mixture developed at the Biological Institute in Nes Tsiona. According to their petition, the process was flawed in the most basic ways, and that there were many violations of the law including basic standards set out by the law, such as the Helsinki Declaration on norms of experimentation on human beings.

The soldiers also claim they had been presented with misleading, partial and false data on the tests, which had suggested that the side-effects of the trials would be minor and temporary.

In practice, the petitioners claim, the soldiers suffered serious health problems as a result of the trials, including pneumonia, infections in the intestinal tract, coughing and spitting blood, migraines, and muscular problems.

In a parallel petition filed by the organizations Physicians for Human Rights, the court is asked to ban all trials on humans in the IDF until the necessary legislation is passed - already approved in a first reading by the Knesset last year - on controlling and supervising such trials.

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