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Israel moves to halt unauthorised patient tests

Emergencies / First AidMay 11, 05

Israel has tightened hospital supervision after an investigation uncovered a spate of unauthorised experiments on children, psychiatric patients and the elderly, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

A report from the state comptroller found that in one hospital, 40 geriatric patients had signed consent forms to undergo experiments - some with only a fingerprint - even though they had mental illnesses, including dementia.

The report has drawn intense criticism in the Israeli media with one headline calling it a ‘scandal’ and another accusing the ministry of negligence.

A patient at another hospital died a day after undergoing an unspecified experiment but an investigation did not begin until several months later, the report said.

Drug tests were also conducted on child patients in a number of hospitals without the required authorisation from parents or specific wording on forms about the nature of the experiment, it said.

Health Minister Danny Naveh said this week he was shocked by the report. A spokesman said the ministry had begun addressing the issues raised in the report before it was published.

“Further supervision has been undertaken to ensure that the general procedures imposed by the Health Ministry more than a year ago are being followed,” he said.

He said the Israeli parliament was also considering legislation to shore up the entire health management system.

Israeli hospitals are party to a 1964 World Health Organisation accord on medical experiments, requiring them to ensure proper review by special committees.

The state comptroller’s report described a pattern of insufficient scrutiny by the health committees and said proper evaluation of experiments, particularly on the old, the young and psychiatric patients, was missing in a number of instances.

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