A former deputy head of the oncology department at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital will spend one year in prison for bribe-taking, after the court upped his sentence in response to an appeal by the state.
Dr. Arie Figer, a senior oncologist, was initially sentenced to six months of community service by the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for taking bribes from patients. However, the Tel Aviv District Court revoked the ruling and replaced it with a harsher sentence.
The Magistrate's Court ound Figer guilty in December of 2009 of accepting bribes from patients, exploitation and breach of trust, sentencing him to 14 months of probation, an NIS 75,000 fine and NIS 24,000 worth of compensation to patients, in addition to the six months of community service.
The court determined that Figer took thousands of shekels from patients in exchange for special treatment during their stays at Ichilov and Beilinson Hospitals.
Figer allegedly offered some patients the opportunity to take part in trial programs in exchange for money. The oncologist also allegedly advised patient to pay to see him at his private clinic to save them long waits at the hospital.
The state appealed the leniency of the oncologist's sentence, while Figer appealed his conviction altogether.
In their ruling, the judges stated that "there is a common denominator between an envelope of money, referring patients to a private clinic or via a secretary and demanding payment in exchange for being part of a treatment group to receive experimental drugs for free. The common denominator is the appellant's readiness to take payment in any way possible."
Figer has denied the allegations against him, saying at the end of his sentencing yesterday that he would be "thrilled if someone could bring even a single proof."
He said his "staff and patients are shocked; this is the end of a career. I am a man who has served his patients faithfully for 35 years."
Some of Figer's former patients came to show their support, contesting the allegations against him and attesting to the integrity of his treatment.
Figer was first arrested in 2006 under suspicions of bribe-taking and breach of trust.
Figer was also suspected of taking bribes from drug companies to promote their products at the Health Ministry, and also among patients.
The police probe of the oncologist also led to the investigation of other doctors who have taken bribes from patients in the same way.
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