JERUSALEM (Apr. 4)
The disclosure that the Israeli army allows military doctors-in-training to practice emergency surgery techniques on the bodies of fallen soldiers has sparked a public outcry — and could lead to a criminal investigation into the practice.
The practice came to light in a report published several weeks ago in a northern Israeli newspaper, which told the story of an Israeli family that had learned such surgery had been performed on the body of their son, Ze’ev Buzaglo, after he was killed in an army training accident two years ago.
The disclosure comes on the heels of another public controversy involving run- ins between the Israel Defense Force and the bereaved families of fallen soldiers. Earlier this year, the families of two naval commandos killed in Lebanon petitioned the High Court after learning that parts of their sons’ bodies had been added to the graves without their knowledge, and that no DNA testing on the remains had been conducted.
In the latest controversy, the Buzaglo family made the discovery after Dr. Haim Buzaglo, the father of the fallen soldier, asked to view the body. Haim Buzaglo said he noticed an incision in his son’s neck that he assumed was the result of a resuscitation attempt, but a report he received later from an army inquiry into the accident quoted an army medical officer as saying that no such attempts had been made in the field.
Brig. Gen. Arye Eldar, the army’s chief medical officer, confirmed that the army has long allowed doctors to train on the bodies of fallen soldiers whose families had granted permission for an autopsy to discover the cause of death.
Eldar said that while no specific consent had been sought from these families to allow the surgery, the practice “had never been a problem,” adding that if army doctors were not allowed to practice these techniques, they could lack the necessary skills in a real-life situation.
But Eldar admitted that in the case of the Buzaglo family, the family had never consented to an autopsy.
Dr. Shuki Shemer, the director general of the Health Ministry and a former chief medical doctor in the IDF, said that, after consulting with the legal counsel to the ministry, he decided last month that army doctors would be able to practice the emergency surgery techniques only with the explicit consent of the families.
In the wake of the report, Israeli police are considering launching a criminal investigation into those civilians involved in the surgeries. Police are also consulting with military police to decide whether the practice represents a breach of military law.