AG Investigating Hebrew U. Claim That Doctor Carried Out Research Improperly

Prof. Yaron Ilan has responded by filing a petition against the university for what he called its 'baseless' claims.

Hebrew University has provided police with material alleging that a senior professor of internal medicine engaged in improper research procedures. Prof. Yaron Ilan - also head of Internal Medicine A at Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem - has responded by filing a petition against the university for what he called its "baseless" claims.

Over the past few months Ilan has found himself at the eye of a storm engulfing the medical establishment in the capital. Haaretz has learned that this summer, information collected by the university on Ilan's conduct was given to police investigators to examine the possibility of criminal misconduct.

Prof. Yaron Ilan (Michal Fattal)
Michal Fattal

In early 2009 Hebrew University appointed an informal review panel, headed by Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Faculty of Law, to examine the matter. Dozens of witnesses came before the committee, including students who had performed research under Ilan's supervision.

This June, university rector Sarah Stroumsa wrote an unusually strongly worded letter charging Ilan with negligence in two instances of conducting research, and in aggressive conduct toward researchers under his guidance.

In the letter, Stroumsa wrote that she had decided to suspend Ilan from teaching or supervising students for three years. Hadassah stood by Ilan, supporting him publicly against the charges.

Haaretz has learned that the university's legal adviser provided Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein with information she had found about Ilan so he could determine whether it contained grounds for a criminal indictment.

Justice Ministry officials said the information was provided to Weinstein's office legally. The Justice Ministry transferred the case to Yehoshua Lemberger, deputy state prosecutor for criminal matters, who this summer transferred it to the police's investigations and intelligence department. A Justice Ministry statement said, "Mr. Lemberger examined the request and found it appropriate to submit it to the police."

Ilan is currently abroad, and has instructed the media to contact Hadassah for comment.

The hospital said it had no knowledge on the specifics of the case.

"Hadassah knows nothing about a petition to the State Prosecutor's Office, or about the supposed 'material' that was submitted. Hadassah also knows nothing about the information provided to the Israel Police," the hospital stated.

Hadassah administrators expressed surprise that material on Ilan had been provided to police, but a senior hospital official said, "The transfer of information was done as a routine step as part of the university's intentions to summon Ilan for a disciplinary hearing."

Meanwhile, Weinstein's office has informed Hebrew University that it has no grounds for launching disciplinary proceedings against Ilan. Justice Ministry officials have said that should a criminal case be opened against Ilan, the university would have to suspend disciplinary steps against him until the investigation's end.

"No disciplinary steps related to Prof. Ilan were taken except those of an informal nature," the hospital said. "Hadassah will gladly follow up any objective examination of complaints raised on this issue. That has been our position on the matter from the beginning."

On Thursday, Ilan filed a complaint against the university at Jerusalem Regional Labor Court. The petition described Ilan as a world-renowned physician in his field, with 240 published articles.

The petition called the allegations against Ilan "baseless," and noted that that the instances cited by Stroumsa "do not indicate improper research methods at all."

A Hebrew University statement said, "The Yaron Ilan issue is being examined, but those proceedings are confidential. As for the complaint he filed, it will be ruled upon within the walls of a courtroom."