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01.12.2017 | Commentary | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Israel Journal of Health Policy Research 1/2017

Soldiers as subjects of medical research: Comments on Hassidim et al. on ethical standards of the Israel Defense Force

Israel Journal of Health Policy Research > Ausgabe 1/2017
Asa Kasher
Wichtige Hinweise
Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor Emeritus of Professional Ethics and Philosophy of Practice, and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University
This comment refers to the article available at: http://​dx.​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13584-016-0113-4.


In 2008 a group of former soldiers of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) sued the Ministry of Defense and others, claiming they had suffered from medical problems that resulted from an IDF medical experiment in which they had participated in the 1970s. There was no compelling medical evidence with respect to causal relationships between their participation in the experiment and their later medical problems.
The President of the District Court, Justice Hila Gerstl, appointed me, with the consent of the parties, to write a deposition with respect to the ethical aspects of the case. My comments in the sequel rest on my deposition, applying not only to the case that had been under discussion but also to each and every case of experimentation. My arguments, strictly confined to the ethical aspects of the case, as opposed to the legal aspects and the debated facts, were not in favor of either party. As a result the state and the former soldiers reached an agreement approved by the court.
One of the major points made in that deposition is that the Nuremberg and Helsinki principles follow from those of medical ethics in general, except for the requirement to have an Institutional Review Board (IRB). A second major point is that under very strict conditions, more than what is usually required, soldiers may participate in medical experiments administered by their military force. However, new conscripts during their first months of their service should not take part in medical experimentation within their military force.
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