In 2007, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-IL) launched a thorough investigation of an experiment code-named “Omer 2,” in which IDF soldiers were used as guinea pigs for an experimental anthrax vaccine. One of the main problems discovered in this anthrax experiment, exposed on the program “Uvda” (Hebrew), was the flawed process used to obtain the participants’ consent.
By law, any experiment involving human subjects must be conducted only on those who have given their consent after being informed of all relevant information regarding the conditions and risks involved and without being subject to external pressure. In the anthrax experiment, however, informed consent was not properly obtained from the soldiers; they were not given a sufficient explanation of the possible side effects of the drug that were known at the time; they were not permitted to consult with anyone who was not a participant in the experiment, which was deemed secret; and some of the participants were young soldiers recruited for the experiment as trainees, some immediately after basic training. During recruitment for the experiment, moreover, in many cases commanding officers were present when the soldiers were asked to sign the consent form, regarding an experiment they were told would contribute to national security. All of that seriously impaired the soldiers’ ability to give free and informed consent.
When negative information about the anthrax experiment came to light, PHR-IL contacted the Military Advocate General and demanded a stop to all medical experiments conducted by the IDF using human subjects, and PHR-IL followed up with a petition to the High Court of Justice.
In 2008, a special commission of inquiry appointed by the Ethics Bureau of the Israel Medical Association submitted its findings in the matter of anthrax experiments, in a report that reinforced all the claims made by PHR regarding the grave improprieties in this experiment (see the report submitted by PHR-IL to the commission, here).
In January 2010, PHR-IL demanded of the IDF Medical Corps that it cease approving all experiments not demonstrably for the benefit of soldiers. A series of instructions was drafted to insure that soldiers’ consent would be freely given and, among other things, that they be permitted to go home before consenting to participate in an experiment. When published, the new directive, shortly to receive the formal status of a directive by the Chief Medical Officer, and its principles will be deemed a directive of the High Command, as provided by the state in its response to the High Court.
On 6.6.10, PHR-IL submitted its own response to the High Court through attorneys Michael Sfard and Neta Patrick, following the refusal of the Ministry of Defense to appoint a state commission of inquiry into the Omer 2 experiment. PHR-IL insists that only the appointment of a state commission of inquiry can assure a thorough investigation of this particular medical experimentation on human subjects conducted by the Chief Medical Officer and members of the IDF Medical Corps on more than seven hundred soldiers.