Italian Surgeon Accused Of Operating Inappropriately Gets Conditional Sentence

Stem-cell scientist Dr. Paolo Macchiarini was accused of wrongdoing during operations on three people between 2011 and 2014. All three patients later died.

June 16, 2022
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini talks to journalists during a press conference, in Florence, Italy on July 30, 2010.

Stem-cell scientist Dr. Paolo Macchiarini was accused of wrongdoing during operations on three people between 2011 and 2014. All three patients later died. Now, he's been found guilty of one count of bodily harm in connection to the death of one of his patients.

Photo by: Associated Press

Associated Press

On June 16, 2022, a Swedish court found Dr. Paolo Macchiarini guilty of one count of bodily harm in connection to the death of one of his patients, Yesim Cetir, who died in March 2017. He was given a conditional sentence for that crime and was acquitted of two other charges.

According to ABC News, Cetir came to Macchiarini after surgeons nicked her trachea while she was undergoing an elective procedure to correct a condition that caused excessive sweating. After Macchiarini performed an artificial trachea transplant on Cetir, she experienced many complications, including multiple strokes, vision loss, and was unable to walk. After Cetir's surgery with Macchiarini, doctors say she had to undergo an additional 191 surgeries for other complications.

The court didn't convict Macchiarini on the first two cases, which occurred before Cetir, because they couldn't prove there was intent to harm but in the case of Cetir, the court expressed that the experiences from the first two transplants should have been enough to make the surgeon stop.

Macchiarini received international 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.

In February 2013, Benita Alexander, an award-winning investigative news producer for NBC, met Dr. Paolo Macchiarini when she was helping coordinate an interview for a special on regenerative medicine. Despite the number one rule of journalism — never get involved with a person you’re reporting on — the two soon fell in love.

Alexander told CrimeFeed the surgeon was “incredibly charming, worldly smart, sophisticated, and seemed very gentle.”

By December 2013, the two were engaged and planned to get married in the Catholic Church in Italy in 2015. As the two planned the wedding, Macchiarini told Alexander that Pope Francis would officiate at their wedding, and the guestlist would include the likes of Elton John, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Alexander’s concerns grew as she hadn’t met any of Macchiarini’s close friends or his children. In addition, in late 2014, four doctors in Sweden accused him of fraud, saying that he'd falsified data in six of the papers he had published. At first, Alexander stood by him but she increasingly became more suspicious so she decided to get in touch with private investigator Frank Murphy.

She soon went into full-on investigative journalist mode, and learned that Paolo had lied about everything.

Alexander’s global quest to find out the truth about the man who left her personal and professional life in shambles is documented on ID’s He Lied About Everything, which is available to stream on discovery+.

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