• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Relief at sacking of scandal-hit Italian celeb surgeon
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini in 2010. File photo: Lorenzo Galassi/Ap/TT/NTB Scanpix

Relief at sacking of scandal-hit Italian celeb surgeon

AFP · 27 Mar 2016, 08:54

Published: 27 Mar 2016 08:54 GMT+02:00

Sweden's Karolinska Institute (KI), which awards the Nobel Prize for Medicine, fired Paolo Macchiarini this week after years of controversy.

A pioneer in regenerative medicine, Paolo Macchiarini was born in Switzerland in 1958 and won international renown in 2008 after undertaking a grafted windpipe transplant using stem cells.

In medical circles, his star was rising, and he was invited to Stockholm's KI as a visiting professor in 2010. He attained world fame for completing the first synthetic trachea transplant using stem cells in 2011.

Macchiarini used an ingenious artificial windpipe made of plastic and seeded it with the patient's own stem cells, which are immature cells that grow into specialised cells that ultimately make up each of the body's organs.

His work was initially hailed as a game-changer for transplant medicine, with the surgeon performing three such operations in Stockholm and five others around the world.

"We want to create new organs, like Frankenstein," he said in a documentary broadcast on Swedish public television in January 2016.

But by that time, his star was fading fast.

His troubles began back in 2014 after several surgeons at KI filed a complaint alleging that Macchiarini had downplayed the risks of the procedure.

Six of his eight patients reportedly died, and allegations ensued that the risky procedure had been carried out on at least one individual who had not, at the time, been critically ill.

Karolinska suspended all synthetic trachea transplants shortly after. 

Macchiarini also carried out clinical work in Krasnodar, Russia where patients undergo surgery for research purposes.

But his time there was overshadowed by an internal investigation at KI, as well as the growing number of news stories in the Italian and Swedish media about the doctor's troubled past.

Prosecutors in Florence, Italy have begun a preliminary investigation into Macchiarini after patients accused him of violating the Hippocratic Oath by charging excessive sums of money, sometimes as much as 150,000 euros. 

Swedish police are investigating Macchiarini on suspicion of gross negligent manslaughter and bodily harm, which could entail up to six years in prison.

On Wednesday, the Karolinska Institute decided to dismiss him, permanently cutting ties with the surgeon.

"His actions have had tragic consequences for the individuals concerned and their families," said Mats Engelbrektson, the institute's director of human resources.

"His behaviour has damaged the credibility of KI and research in general."

An article in the Swedish medical journal, Lakartidningen, described the Macchiarini case as an "ethical Chernobyl" for the institute.

KI's vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten, and the general secretary of the Nobel Assembly Urban Lendahl, both resigned in February. The Karolinska Institute's board has largely been replaced in the wake of the controversy.

Macchiarini's dismissal was greeted with relief by the scientific community.

Story continues below…

"I think we're in a very bad period now in Sweden, with this case of fraudulent behaviour, it makes people lose their motivation, especially young people, and it makes people question our integrity," said Lena Claesson-Welsh, a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences.

The doctor is accused of lying about his research by claiming that he conducted tests on animals before attempting similar transplants on human beings. He also faces allegations that he lied about his scientific research and his past experience with prestigious medical research centres.

"Paolo Macchiarini supplied false or misleading information in the CV he submitted to KI," the institute said, adding that he "demonstrated scientific negligence" in his research.

Vanity Fair magazine published an article in February chronicling how Macchiarini and his former fiancee Benita Alexander, a producer for US television network NBC, became engaged.

During their courtship, the doctor reportedly told her he had operated on Bill and Hillary Clinton, Emperor Akihito of Japan and US President Barack Obama. He apparently also promised her that Pope Francis would officiate at their wedding.

Macchiarini's lawyer, Björn Hurtig, declined comment for this story.

Earlier, in an interview with state broadcaster Swedish Radio, he said: "His intention was positive, he only wanted to help people, now he's been scandalized and portrayed negatively throughout the world."

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
78-year-old crowned Sweden's best grower of oilseed rape
Gunnar Henningson celebrates his well-deserved victory. Photo: Svensk Raps

"This is one of the happiest days of my life,” said 78-year- old Gunnar Henningson, after being crowned Sweden's "Rapsmästaren".

Sweden to bring in tighter rape laws to up convictions
Mari Heidenborg, president of the Sexual Offences Committee wants to drop the Swedish term fro rape Våldtakt. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

Swedish lawmakers are to propose adding a controversial consent clause to the country’s rape laws.

Sweden's centre-right voters up for deals with populist SD
Jimmie Åkesson with Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Moderate leader Anna Kinberg Batra. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

A growing majority of voters for Sweden’s four-party centre-right Alliance support working with the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats.

Coeliac disease not caused by early weaning: Swedish study
Carin Andrén Aronsson now plans to investigate why Sweden has such high levels of coeliac disease. Photo: Polarbrod

Mothers who stop breastfeeding early are not to blame for their children developing gluten intolerance, a new Swedish study has found.

Zlatan look-a-like storms pitch as Man U take on champions
A grinning Zlatan pushed the man away with the palm of his hand. Photo: YouTube

Zlatan fever has hit the UK, with a look-a-like storming the pitch on Saturday only to be palmed off by the grinning Swedish star.

Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
'Egor Putilov' had access to all areas of the Swedish parliament: Photo: Riksdag

A Russian-born political secretary for the Sweden Democrats has resigned after making six million kronor ($0.7m) in a property deal with a St Petersburg businessman.

Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Bruce Springsteen tells SVT talk show host that Trump is an 'embarrassment' to the US. Photo: SVT/Youtube

Rock legend Bruce Springsteen has described Donald Trump as an embarrassment to the United States in an interview on Sweden's Skavlan talk show.

'World class' developer told to leave Sweden over admin slip
Software developer Tayyab Shabab. Photo: Private

Tayyab Shabab has a house, a job and pays tax in Sweden, but he has now been told he must leave within three weeks.

Police release men held over bomb threat on refugee home
Police officers outside the building. Photo: Robert Nyholm/TT

UPDATED: Two men arrested after a bomb threat was made against a home for refugees in Boden, northern Sweden, have been allowed to leave custody.

Embassy: No-go zones 'do not exist in Sweden'
Police on the Serbian-Hungarian border. Photo: Sofia Eriksson/TT

Sweden's embassy in Budapest has sharply rebuked Hungary after an official leaflet claimed that Stockholm and other European cities had become "no-go areas".

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
Blog updates

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 

23 August

A Summer in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"For our first year here in Sweden we decided to have all our holidays in Sweden.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
Gallery
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
Shakib, 23, works and pays taxes — but will Sweden let him stay?
National
Watch this Swede roll his kayak without spilling his beer. Respect.
Gallery
People-watching: September 7th
The Local Voices
'Swedes are polarized on refugees - it's the welcome mat or the exit door'
National
WATCH: Yes, this Swedish rising star really is Abba legend's grandson
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,966
jobs available