Windpipe surgeon jailed in Sweden for harming patients

21 Jun 2023 07:31pm
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX
Picture for illustrative purposes - FILE PIX

STOCKHOLM Sweden - Swedish appeals court on Wednesday sentenced an Italian surgeon once hailed for pioneering windpipe surgery to two and a half years in prison for aggravated assault on patients.

Paolo 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.

But allegations soon emerged that the procedure had been carried out on patients who were not critically ill at the time of the surgery.

Three of his patients in Sweden died, though the deaths have not been directly linked to the surgeries.

A district court in May found him guilty of causing bodily harm to one patient, ruling that the procedures were not consistent with "science and proven experience".

But it cleared him of assault charges on two other patients, arguing that their health was in such a dire state that the procedures were "justifiable".

Both the prosecution and the defence appealed the lower court's ruling, and on Wednesday the Svea court of appeal found him guilty of three counts of aggravated assault.

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The appeals court concluded that the procedures were carried out on two of the patients even though they were "not in emergency situations" and "could have lived for a not insignificant amount of time without the interventions".

The third patient was in an "emergency situation" but "the procedure was, despite this, unjustifiable," the court said in a statement.

It also found he acted with intent.

"These were not impulsive actions, these were planned interventions," judge Maria Holcke said in the statement.

Together with his colleagues, Macchiarini, 64, performed a total of eight such transplants between 2011 and 2014 -- three in Sweden in 2011 and 2012, and five in Russia.

Four of the five Russian patients also died, according to Swedish media reports.

Macchiarini has insisted in court that the transplants were an alternative decided upon after all other options had been excluded.

The surgeon was also employed by the Karolinska Institute research facility, which awards the Nobel Medicine Prize.

An external review in 2015 found Macchiarini guilty of research misconduct, and the Institute sacked him in 2016 and found him guilty of scientific misconduct in 2018.

Medical journal The Lancet in 2018 retracted two papers authored by Macchiarini - AFP

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