Body Parts and Bio-Piracy In Israel

by Project Censored
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The National Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, a Tel Aviv suburb, is Israel’s national depository of dead bodies requiring identification, examination, and autopsy. It serves two purposes, on the one hand, as a scientific institute affiliated with the Sackler School of Medicine (Tel Aviv University), through which it operates a state-of-the-art genetics laboratory. On the other hand, the Institute is controlled and closely supervised by the chevra kadisha – the orthodox religious organization has a virtual monopoly on all burials in Israel, except for the military. The Institute is a civil organization working under the Ministry of Health. On the other hand, it is an arm of the security police and the military.

The Institute is then both a traditional medical-legal mortuary and, off the record, Israel’s primary source of tissues, bone, and skin needed for transplantation, plastic surgery, research and medical teaching. The illicit traffic in organs, tissues, bone and the stockpiling of assorted body parts at the Institute is what anthropologists call a public secret, something that every one inside the society knows about but which is never discussed, and certainly never admitted to those outside the society. But, in fact, allegations and official investigations of organ-and-tissue trafficking at the Forensic Institute have been ongoing in Israel since 1999 up to the present day.

Patients or “transplant tourists” who travel to foreign countries for organ transplants often return with more problems than they left home with. The well-known Israeli crime boss Ilan Peri started a “company” several years ago in which he offered organs for people willing to pay. Over the years Peri has established international transplant deals and kidney transplant outlets ranging from countries such as Turkey, South Africa, the Philippines, China and many more.  It seems now Dr. Yehuda Hiss, an esteemed professor at Abu Kabir, Israel’s National Forensic Institute, has taken over the role of Ilan Peri.  Allegations of Hiss’ confiscation of organs, skin, and tissue date back to 1999, where Hiss ordered his students to transfer the body parts of the subjects to a secret area. This was all done without the authorization of the family members. In 2000 Yedoit Aharonot, a local Israeli newspaper, found and published a price list for organs that Hiss had sold.

In 2005, new allegations of organ trafficking at Abu Kabir surfaced, Hiss admitted to removing one hundred twenty five body parts without authorization. A plea bargain ensued with the state of Israel, the attorney general decided not to press charges. Hiss was only given a reprimand and continues to work as Israels’s head pathologist.

Title: Tissue, Skin, Bone, and Organ Harvesting at Israel’s National Forensic Institute

Publication:, 10/25/10

Author: Nancy Scheper-Hughes



Student Researcher: Robert Block Sonoma State University

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