The former #2 in the National Institute for Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) says he can't understand why the director, found to have engaged in illegal harvesting of organs, is still the highest-paid person in the public sector.
Last week, the Finance Ministry released a list of the highest-paid public sector employees, revealing that the highest-paid of all was none other than Prof. Yehuda Hiss, who essentially heads the National Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir. Hiss, a controversial figure who in 2004 was demoted from his position of Director of Abu Kabir, though he remained its Chief Pathologist. The Institute was placed under the authority of Assaf HaRofeh Hospital.
Many complaints had been filed charging Hiss with unauthorized use of body parts for research and other purposes. He ultimately was not charged with criminal behavior but was censured by a disciplinary committee.
In July 2002, while Hiss was under police investigation for suspicions including the removal of organs from 81 deceased persons without familial consent, the Supreme Court rejected a petition submitted by the Movement for Quality in Government demanding his suspension.
As State Pathologist, Hiss has decided most of Israel's pathological-legal issues, and many people have been sent to prison based on his findings. However, his professional standards have often been publicly maligned. In August 1999, for instance, Jerusalem District Court Judge Ruth Orr sharply criticized him for testifying that a 12-year-old Arab rock-thrower died as a result of a beating by Beitar security chief Nachum Korman three years earlier. She wrote that Hiss "was carried away by his desire to find the exact cause of the death... and ignored important pathological findings that did not correspond with this desire."
Despite the above, it was revealed last week that Hiss earns nearly 67,000 shekels ($18,150) a month, roughly nine times the national average.
Dr. Chen Kugel, who served for several years as the Deputy Director of Abu Kabir and was instrumental in exposing serious irregularities there, such as the harvesting of organs without families' permission and testimony given by doctors about autopsies at which they were not present, spoke with Shimon Cohen of Arutz-7's Hebrew news magazine.
"I can only say that it is very curious," Kugel said, "that a man who was found by a committee headed by a District Court judge to have totally failed in his job and was censured by a disciplinary committee, should not only come out unscathed, but also top the wage-earners' chart. For instance, recently a family was awarded two million [sic; over 1.5 million] shekels because its son's organs were removed from his body without permission – and this money comes [partially] from all of our pockets, and yet not a hair on the head of the man responsible for this is harmed."
After Kugel made his accusations public several years ago, he found that he was being harassed at work. Though a judge forbade the Institute from firing him, he found that he was "wasting his time," as he said, and he ultimately resigned. He now heads another forensic institute, which he is hoping to have recognized as an official alternative to the one in Abu Kabir. "We do not do autopsies," Kugel explained, "so we are not currently in direct competition. But even if someone thinks that my [opposition to Hiss] is based on my own private interests – though I publicized my complaints well before I opened this institute – he should judge my claims on their merits."
In the past, the management of Abu Kabir has responded to Kugel's accusations as follows: "The Institute was in the eye of the storm many times before it was transferred to Assaf HaRofeh's control. It was examined by public bodies, and conclusions were reached and implemented. We therefore have no interest in entering this story again. It is also no secret that Dr. Kugel is taking advantage of the supposed deficiencies to promote his private activity as an independent doctor in his field and in building his future."
Kugel received the Movement for Quality in Government's Award for Fighting Corruption in 2007 for his exposure of the goings-on in Abu Kabir.
Cohen asked Kugel if he thought Hiss was being coddled because of his international reputation as an expert in his field. Kugel said he does not believe so: "The level in Israel is not high… There are only five experts in this field in all of Israel, so how can we know whether Hiss is truly a top expert – because the spokesman of some PR firm says so?"
Cohen made another suggestion: "There have been rumors for years that Hiss simply knows too much; people have been sent to jail on his say-so, and for instance he knows about the Rabin murder. Perhaps there is a fear that if he is fired, he might open his mouth and ruin some lives."
Kugel guardedly answered, "I don't know if this is correct. I wasn't present at the Rabin autopsy, so I don't know about this. But if it is true, then the situation must stop now; why let it continue?"