Swedish court finds Italian star surgeon guilty of 'causing bodily harm'

TT/AFP/The Local
TT/AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Swedish court finds Italian star surgeon guilty of 'causing bodily harm'
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, centre, and Walter Giovannini, the director of the AOU Careggi hospital, meet the journalists in Florence, in 2010, after announcing they have successfully transplanted a windpipe using an innovative procedure that uses stem cells to allow a donated trachea to regenerate tissue. Photo: AP/Lorenzo Galassi

A court in Sweden has found the scandal-hit Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini guilty of a serious crime causing bodily harm for one of three experimental operations implanting synthetic windpipes in patients. 


The court ruled that the operation was not justified on the basis of established medical science or experience.

"The benefits which could be expected from the treatment were quite simply not proportional to the risks which came with the operation," the judges in the case, Ewa Lindbäck and Björn Skånsberg, said in a statement


The court freed Macchiarini in two other cases, ruling that the operations had been defensible as a last resort, due to the perilous state of the patients' health. 

It also ruled that he was not guilty of carrying out an intentional assault, but was rather guilty of causing harm through negligence. 

"The court finds that the surgeon realised the risks of the procedure for which he is now sentenced. However, nothing has emerged to suggest that he was indifferent to the fact that the procedure would lead to severe bodily injuries and long-term, severe suffering," the statement reads.

"He should therefore not be convicted of an intentional assault offence but of offence of causing bodily harm through negligence."

Macchiarini won praise in 2011 after claiming to have performed the world's first synthetic trachea transplants using stem cells, while he was a surgeon at Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital.

The experimental procedure was hailed as a breakthrough in regenerative medicine and made the Italian a star until it became clear that the operation did not work, as well as allegations that the procedure had been carried out on at least one person who had not been critically ill at the time of the surgery.

The first patient's symptoms became progressively worse in the months after his operation, forcing him to return to the hospital over and over again until he died in January 2014. An autopsy found that the plastic windpipe had dislodged almost completely and was surrounded by dead tissue, fluid, and fungal infection. 

The second patient died suddenly, sixteen weeks after the operation. The third patient's implant started to collapse in the spring of 2013, and was then reaffixed. She suffered further complications, going in for further surgery more than 200 times until he she died in 2017. 

Macchiarini has denied guilt, claiming that his operations on the three patients were life-saving, and that the implants had been their only chances of survival. 

The surgeon was handed a suspended sentence, which in Sweden means that if he were to commit another crime during a two-year probation period, the court would re-evaluate his sentence.


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