Sweden Reopens Case Against Disgraced Former 'Supersurgeon' Over Patient Deaths

In June 2016, the public prosecutor’s office began investigating Paolo Macchiarini on suspicion of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm based on the material leading to the deaths of the three patients operated on in Sweden.

December 13, 2018

Benita Alexander and Paolo Macchiarini celebrate their love with friends at a get together in New York [Courtesy Benita Alexander/Investigation Discovery]

Benita Alexander and Paolo Macchiarini celebrate their love with friends at a get together in New York [Courtesy Benita Alexander/Investigation Discovery]

By: Catherine Townsend

Swedish prosecutors have announced that they plan to reopen a criminal negligence investigation against a disgraced Italian “supersurgeon” in connection with the deaths of three patients.

A previous inquiry against Paolo Macchiarini, who shot to fame as the only doctor in the world who was able to use biological and synthetic scaffolds bathed in the patients’ own stem cells for trachea transplants, ended in 2017 without charges.

In June 2016, the public prosecutor’s office began investigating Paolo on suspicion of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm based on the material leading to the deaths of the three patients operated on in Sweden.

But in October 2017, the attorney general’s office announced that a crime could not be proven, because the patients might have died even without his intervention.

Macchiarini denied any negligence in his transplant of synthetic tracheas into the three patients, which took place between 2011 and 2012.

Seven of the eight patients who received one of his synthetic trachea transplants have died.

He was fired from Karolinska Institute, which awards the Nobel medicine prize, in March 2016.

But the 2017 decision was appealed. Prosecutor Mikael Bjork said on Wednesday he would reopen the case regarding two of the patients. "I draw different legal conclusions than previous prosecutors," he said in a statement.

The Swedish government dismissed the institute's board in 2016 after an investigation found negligence in the decision of Karolinska Hospital to hire Macchiarini.

The Investigation Discovery show He Lied About Everything followed the surgeon’s alleged frauds, including his aborted wedding to New York–based producer Benita Alexander.

Alexander believed that she was living a real-life fairy with Macchiarini – and even believed that the couple was going to be married in Rome in a wedding that would be officiated by the Pope – before Maccharini’s tall tales began falling apart.

In 2016, Vanity Fair published an expose on Macchiarini. According to the magazine, in 2012 he was charged in Italy with attempted aggravated fraud related to alleged efforts to persuade very ill patients to undergo radical surgery at facilities where he had privileges.

Vanity Fair also later discovered that several of Macchiarini’s other statements were false, including his claims about having been an associate professor at the University of Pisa.

Swedish television broadcast a three-part exposé of Macchiarini’s work called Experimenten, which argued that the artificial windpipes did more harm than good — and were actually rotting away inside his patients’ bodies.

The media began calling him “Dr. Frankenstein” and said that he committed “the world’s biggest medical fraud.”

Macchiarini stated in an interview with a TV station in Iceland that he has always acted in the patients’ best interest.

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