|Institutions||Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, Israel|
Yehuda (also, Jehuda) Hiss (born c. 1946) was the chief pathologist at the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine between 1988 and October 15, 2012. Hiss has also served as part of the faculty for the Terrorism and Medicine Program at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at IDC Herzliya and in the Department of Pathology for the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
As director of the Institute at Abu Kabir, the only place in Israel authorized to conduct autopsies in cases of unnatural death, Hiss conducted the autopsies of and authored the pathology reports for notable figures, including Yitzhak Rabin and Rachel Corrie, among others. His position as director was a subject of controversy. He was dismissed from this position after the legal system took up some of the charges against him. Investigations revealed that Hiss had removed organs, bones and other tissues from corpses, against the expressed wishes of family, and had sold many of the organs he removed to medical institutions and universities. He remained the chief pathologist of the Institute and regained his position as director before being dismissed by the Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on Oct 15 2012.
Early life and medical training
Born in Poland shortly after the end of World War II, Hiss was 10 years old when he arrived in Israel. He later undertook his medical training there, and in Italy, Austria, Britain and the United States.
Hiss became the director and chief pathologist at Abu Kabir in 1988. As director of the Institute, Hiss was involved with high profile cases. Hiss performed the autopsy on Yitzhak Rabin after his 1995 assassination; his report was challenged in March 1999 by a group of Israeli academics. In May 2003, he confirmed the identification of the body that washed ashore the beaches of Tel Aviv to be that of Omar Sharif, the accomplice of Asif Hanif, who carried out the Mike's Place suicide bombing the month previous. Hiss told Haaretz that Sharif's DNA was matched to samples provided by two British detectives and the cause of death was determined to be drowning. He also performed the autopsy on Rachel Corrie.
A piece featuring Hiss that appeared in The New York Times in February 2004 noted Hiss played a "unique role" in the response network that Israel had to developed to deal with the more than 100 suicide bombings it had experienced over the three years previous. All the dead from such attacks are brought to the Forensic Institute, and Hiss had been present to attend to, "the dismembered victims and shattered victims," in all but one attack. The same article mentions the controversy surrounding Hiss as follows:
"While the forensic center is praised for its work after bombings, Dr. Hiss has been involved in controversies related to other cases, including allegations that the institute removed organs from corpses without permission from the families. The issue is enormously sensitive because of Judaism's emphasis on burying the whole body. Government inquiries have not resulted in any charges against Dr. Hiss. But in December the Israeli attorney general recommended disciplinary action. The issue is still under consideration, and no sanctions have been imposed so far."
In January 2006, following the carrying out of an autopsy that was ordered by the Israeli courts for a Haredi woman found murdered in her apartment, a riot by dozens of Haredim took place inside the institute where Hiss worked. According to Dr. Benny Davidson, the manager of the institute, "Even in the institute's darkest days, there wasn't an event this big. They wrecked the entire hall, broke expensive equipment, and destroyed (institute director) Yehuda Hiss' room. The public reaction to the articles on the pathological institute was an abandonment of Hiss."
Allegations of organ harvesting
According to Rebecca Dube in the Forward, allegations that Hiss and his lab were taking organs from corpses without permission and using them for research or selling them to medical schools have a long history and were substantiated by the Israeli government. The allegations first appeared in 1998, after Alistair Sinclair, a Scottish tourist apprehended on suspicion of dealing drugs, died in a holding cell at Ben Gurion International Airport, apparently having hanged himself. After an autopsy overseen by Hiss, the body was returned to his family; a second autopsy performed by pathologists at the University of Glasgow found that the heart and a small bone at the base of his tongue were missing. Jonathan Rosenblum reported that the missing bone from his neck was considered necessary to confirming that he had hanged himself as stated, and that the Sinclair family believed his heart had been used for transplant. The scandal was publicized by media in Israel and Scotland after the family sued.
Rosenblum, writing in The Jerusalem Post in October 2000 regarding a case in which Hiss' testimony played a crucial role, also discussed how Hiss has long been a source of controversy. He related that a 12-page investigative report in November 1999 by the local Tel Aviv newspaper Ha'ir stated that medical students at Abu Kabir under Hiss' direction were allowed to practice on bodies sent there for autopsy, and body parts were transferred for transplant use without permission from the families concerned. In January 2001, an investigative report in Yediot Aharonot claimed the institute headed by Hiss had been involved in "organ sales" of body parts to universities and medical schools for research and training, citing evidence including the "price listings" for body parts.
Israel's Ministry of Health convened a committee to investigate the claims which found that Hiss had been involved for years in the sale of illegally removed body parts to medical schools. Rebecca Dube in the Forward writes that Hiss was never charged with any crime, but was forced to step down from running the state morgue in 2004. According to Dube, "the final straw, apparently, was when the body of a youth killed in a road accident was gnawed upon by a rat in Hiss's lab." Every body that ended up in Hiss' morgue, whether Israeli or Palestinian, was fair game for organ harvesting.
Hiss ceased being the director of the institute in 2005 when allegations of a trade in organs resurfaced. After Hiss admitted to having removed parts from 125 bodies without authorization, and following a plea bargain with the State of Israel, Israel's attorney-general, decided not to press criminal charges. Hiss was given only a reprimand and continued to hold his position as chief pathologist at Abu Kabir and eventually regained his position as director.
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