The High Court of Justice on Wednesday lifted the ban on publication, permitting the report of a military project surrounding the development of a vaccine against anthrax, which the IDF feared would be used in a chemical attack against Israel.
The project took place in the early 1990s involving many fields of expertise, including military medical officers and the US government. 4,029 potential volunteers were brought into the loop and eventually, 716 agreed to become test subjects to advance the vaccination effort. One half of the volunteers were career officers.
As a result of the release of the report, Prof. Avinoam Reches, who heads the Ethics Committee of the Israel Medical Association, launched an 18-month investigation in which he learned the experiment crossed many ethical and disciplinary lines.
Medical personnel tracked the volunteers for a number of years, reporting that to date, 11 required medical attention. Despite the lifting of the gag order, some of the details of the project remain classified, and this leaves somewhat of a fog pertaining to some details, primarily surrounding what the volunteers were told, with some alleging they were not presented with an accurate picture that truly presented possible risks and side effects of the project.
Dorit Tahan, 29, is a resident of Kibbutz Na’an and the mother of two. She explains at the time of the experiment, she was a 19-year-old idealistic junior officer in the medical corps, now looking back, explaining “they used us and then discarded us”.
She explains that she still suffers side effects, primarily exhibited as dermatological problems while others have other long-term side effects. She is leading the effort for justice of the victims. Dorit says her side effects began two months later and it varies with the group. Some of the participants have major digestive tract problems, while others complain of prolonged headaches and still others complain of dizziness.
Dorit is thankful that the story have finally broken, explaining for if not, “700 of us would continue suffering quietly”, explaining the Defense Ministry refuses to come to their assistance.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)