Paolo Macchiarini: Surgeon convicted for fatal Swedish transplants

Image credit: BBC

A Swedish court sentenced a disgraced Italian surgeon to a suspended term for causing physical harm during an experimental stem-cell windpipe transplant.

Paolo Macchiarini, a pioneering transplant surgeon, was found not guilty of two counts of assault.

In Sweden, three patients died as a result of their treatment.

Prosecutors recommended that Macchiarini receive a five-year sentence, but the district court concluded that he had no intention of harming the victims.

Macchiarini gained international notoriety in 2011 when he performed the world’s first synthetic organ transplant at Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital. Because of his work with plastic tracheas and stem cells, patients would no longer have to wait for donors.

Andemariam Beyene, an Eritrean PhD student who had the first transplant in 2011, died two and a half years later following a succession of ailments. It was determined that his artificial trachea was loose.

Christopher Lyles of the United States underwent a synthetic trachea transplant in 2011, but he died just months later. Yesim Cetir, a young woman in her twenties, died in 2017 after undergoing surgery in 2011. Other patients died, including Julia Tuulik, a Russian mother who was treated abroad.

Macchiarini was eventually suspended from the famous Karolinska Institute. Prosecutors investigated him for criminal wrongdoing after a TV documentary revealed concerns concerning surgical techniques he used.

He was eventually charged with serious assault and bodily harm in Solna district court, just outside of Stockholm. However, he was not charged with the patients’ deaths.

According to him, the court had concluded that all three patients had suffered significant bodily injury. On the other hand, Macchiarini was exonerated of assault since no intent to harm had been shown, he argued.

Macchiarini has always denied any wrongdoing, stating that the transplants were carried out to save the lives of the patients.

Dr Matthias Corbascio, a whistleblower, told SVT that the decision was a “scandal” and that the procedures had little chance of functioning.

As a result of the suspended sentence, he will be on probation for the next two years.

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