The trachea transplant doctor and acolyte of Paolo Macchiarini, Philipp Jungebluth, followed up on his previous legal threat to me and used his star lawyer to issue an injunction against me by a court in Berlin. The plaintiffs even declared to have started their legal action following a similar move against me by other former collaborators of the scandal surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, Heike and Thorsten Walles. Here, however, Macchiarini and Jungebluth are proclaimed being “renowned in Germany and world-wide”, no, not how you know them from the more recent Swedish and also British media. Jungebluth is portrayed as an excellent, most-sought for, doctor and top scientist whose only career dent came from what I wrote about him on my site. Once again, I was not invited or informed of the trial, and sentenced never again to assume that Jungebluth might have left his research surgeon employment with the University Clinic of Heidelberg in any other way but entirely of his own accord. The usual threat: €250,000 fine or 6 months in prison.
The lawyer didn’t really have to bother claiming any urgency to have this injunction passed, since Jungebluth is happily employed as junior doctor at a small communal hospital outside Braunschweig, in northern Germany. It sufficed to assert that he felt bothered by my reporting after no less than 35 colleagues asked him about it, and the other side of story became immediately irrelevant for now. Once again, German justice created legal facts out of accusations, without allowing the accused to bring any evidence to defend himself. The alleged eminence of Dr. Jungebluth, scientist and physician, made all evidence obsolete. Except that to all those who ever followed the Macchiarini scandal, the young doctor is not as renowned and respected as the court trusted his lawyer. Conveniently though, in Germany this media reporting never really happened.
In German legal understanding of libel, context matters. This is also why the same judge decided that a tweet of mine was perfectly legal, where I addressed the shockingly high patient mortality and life-endangering by Dr. Jungebluth. The context which Jungebluth’s lawyer has provided the Berlin judge with (see this letter) regarding his client’s professional success omits the disaster of the plastic trachea transplants and presents them as ground-breaking advances. Most shockingly the same Lancet-published operation on Andemariam Beyene (Jungebluth et al, 2011), exposed as a fraudulent, patient-abusive disaster by the Bosse Lindquist’s Swedish documentary “Experimenten” and the investigations of the Karolinska Insttitutet (KI) and the Karolinska University Hospital. Beyene had been slowly suffocating almost since after the operation, the transplant by Jungebluth et al eventually detached and the patient died. This Lancet paper is so disgustingly wrong that several authors jumped ship retrospectively (see Errata here and here)and the Swedish Research Council declared that the authors failed to apply for the legally required ethics permit to perform this operation. No matter. Jungebluth’s lawyer rolled out as evidence a BBC timeline on Sweden from April 2015 where this operation was hailed. But why not that more recent BBC article, where the lethality of plastic tracheas and also the falseness of that Lancet paper are exposed and where I am even quoted? Apparently, the lawyer saw it as irrelevant to the case at hand and chose not to bother the judge with petty stuff. Instead, he produced this New York Times article from 2013, celebrating MacchiarinI’s and Jungebluth’s achievements as doctors and scientists in “saving” a 2-year-old child in US, Hannah Warren. The child died right after, nobody would ever dare to defend that operation these days. But in German mass media, no real enlightenment about Macchiarini, the adjunct professor at Hannover Medical School (MHH) ever happened, so the judge was given all the “correct” facts straight from the source: Jungebluth. Good that I was excluded there, eh?
As another proof of Jungebluth’s scientific excellence, the Lancet paper Gonfiotti et al 2014 was brought forth, which pretended that the trachea transplant operation on Claudia Castillo in Barcelona developed after 5 years to a resounding success story of regenerative medicine. Yet even the Hospital Clinic Barcelona, where the operation took place in 2008, declared that the patient’s medical reality is completely different from how Jungebluth et al chose to paint it in their 5-year follow-up paper. Castillo survived, after many complications and permanent clinical care, she also lost her lung. That so many Jungebluth’s patients died, including the young mother Yulia Tuulik in Russia, who could have lead a long and fulfilled life instead, is of course not even mentioned in the court documents. Yulia Tuulik obviously never existed, simply because Jungebluth never published her story in an impactful research paper. The court was however educated at length about the ranking and the journal impact factor of The Lancet.
44 papers on PubMed
Jungebluth’s lawyer provided as evidence of his client’s academic achievement a print-out from PubMed of 44 publications featuring Jungebluth’s name. The most recent one on that list: the editorial expression of concern regarding the findings of research misconduct in the Nature Communications paper on oesophagus transplants in rats, which Jungebluth co-authored under Macchiarini (see my report here). KI spoke of “research fraud” on the part of Jungebluth and Macchiarini and demanded a retraction of this paper, which apparently already has been approved by the journal, according to a Russian-language article on Radio Liberty. Just about when Jungebluth left his Heidelberg utterly on his own accord, the Swedish Central Ethical Review Board found him guilty of scientific misconduct regarding that same publication.Of course, Jungebluth’s lawyer preferred not to bother the court with such irrelevant recent developments. I wonder, if the judge would have asked, would the lawyer have said that this expression of concern is actually just yet another high-impact paper by Jungebluth in an elite journal?
Also the previous findings of Karolinska University Hospital investigation that Jungebluth had been operating patients without a Swedish medical license fell under the table. Even worse: while this lawyer demanded of me to sign that Jungebluth never operated any patients in Sweden, he proudly declared just that to the Berlin court in regard to the patient Beyene:
“The plaintiff was involved in this operation as part of his research stay at Karolinska University Hospital”.
The fact that Jungebluth’s doctorate dissertation is currently investigated by his university MHH? Not worth mentioning. Instead, aware that the scandal surgeon Macchiarini is not really that well-received these days, the lawyer cautions the court:
“Everyone who is interested in the much acclaimed and meanwhile disputed research by Macchiarini on the area of the plastic trachea transplants will inevitably encounter the plaintiff”.
A Jungebluth co-authored paper on that evidence list, Gonfiotti et al 2012 was actually retracted in the same year, “for scientific misconduct”, precisely for plagiarism. Does it matter that the lawyer’s claim that his client had 44 research publications on PubMed actually included one retraction and one expression of concern? Apparently, in a German court these two “publications” still serve to prove Jungebluth’s excellent research record.
The judge was likely made to understand that though Jungebluth did author all these publications with Macchiarini, and was participating in the operations himself, he is not responsible for any of the bad aspects, only for the good ones. Which are exactly what, given the deaths and mutilations all these patients met? As the lawyer presents it, The Lancet impact factor is an absolute value in itself.
Update 01.02.2017. According to these documents (here and here), Jungebluth is currently being investigated by KI for potential scientific misconduct in Jungebluth et al 2015 and for image duplications in Ajalloueian et al 2014. More investigations are ongoing at KI, including into same Lancet papers which the lawyer presented as evidence of Jungebluth’s unblemished academic excellence.
8 years of surgeon training in vain?
But what about the reasons why Jungebluth left his job at the Thorax Clinic in Heidelberg, where he was training to become a thorax surgeon? This was his second attempt to achieve this qualification and emulate his master Macchiarini, which he first began in February 2009 at the Thorax Surgery Clinic Braunschweig. There, Jungebluth worked as junior doctor until early 2014 (while being in parallel employed, possibly full-time, 1,200 km away in Stockholm at KI). Obviously Jungebluth did not conclude his training in Braunschweig, by now over 8 years passed after he finished his studies at the Hannover Medical School in December 2008, but he still is a junior doctor, without an advanced qualification.
So what? The lawyer simply asserted to the court that the doctors of at least 5 major hospitals in Berlin are “interested” in employing Jungebluth in their thoracic surgery, providing as evidence… printouts of their websites, which indeed prove only the physical existence of these thoracic departments. How these doctors intend to employ Jungebluth as thoracic surgeon is unclear, since he objectively lacks qualifications. After leaving Heidelberg utterly voluntarily, the (eternal?) junior doctor Jungebluth somehow did not go back to Thorax Surgery Clinic Braunschweig to finish his apprenticeship, but instead went to the neighbouring Communal Hospital Wolfenbüttel, to train in trauma and orthopaedic surgery. Not many doctors abandon two prolonged attempts of surgeon training of their own accord, but apparently Jungebluth did. Or so he says. The desperate heads of thoracic surgeries in Berlin must wait until the esteemed Dr. Jungebluth changes his mind again after some years and gives the thoracic surgery another chance.
Under oath Jungebluth asserts that he left the Heidelberg job utterly on his own accord, but a Thorax Clinic letter of recommendation (which I received with court documents, but am not sure if it can be published under German privacy law) does not declare this at all. Instead, the letter dated with the last day of Jungebluth’s employment, August 31st 2016, concludes about the “junior doctor in training”:
“He leaves our clinic out of unterminated employment, in order to pursue a career in trauma and orthopaedic surgery”.
Unterminated employment can for example mean that the work contract expired and was not renewed, or that the training was completed. Which it obviously was not, Jungebluth’s former boss Hendrik Dienemann also does not elaborate how that thoracic surgery training worked out. What Dienemann does mention is the fact that Jungebluth was present at work every day during his employment from April 1st 2014 till September 1st 2016:
“he participated at the daily interdisciplinary indication conference of our clinic, where he responsibly represented the interests of his patients”.
Jungebluth also was joining “the weekly interdisciplinary tumour board conference” and the “daily X-ray demonstrations”. Why is this relevant?
The ubiquitous Jungebluth
Because at the same time, while working obviously full time in Heidelberg, Jungebluth was drawing a research group leader salary in Sweden, sponsored by SFO, a Swedish government fund for Strategic Research. An email from the KI Registrar Maria Ohlsson confirmed that Jungebluth was employed 50% at KI and the other 50% in Germany, from April 1st 2014 till April 1st 2016. If he was every day in Heidelberg, as unambiguously certified by Dienemann, when exactly was he appearing at work in Stockholm to justify his salary? How Jungebluth managed to turn up daily in two locations which are 1,500 km apart is his mystery, but again, we are talking about Jungebluth, who seems to have pulled off the same magic feat before, with his surgery training at the Thorax Clinic in Braunschweig, while apparently working full-time in Stockholm. Jungebluth is indeed the master of alternative facts.
So the court decreed, even if the University Clinic Heidelberg knew about the accusations and the investigations against Macchiarini and Jungebluth in March 2016 the latest (where I informed them by email), it was utterly Jungebluth’s expressed wish to quit his attempts of 7.5 years to become a thoracic surgeon and also abandon all his dreams of doing research, by leaving the academic environment. Nobody is allowed to assume from this that the world-renowned scientist doctor with an absolutely untarnished reputation “lost” that job, or you go to prison. The lawyer agrees though that Jungebluth did declare to the Swedish media:
“My research career is over. The last ten years of my working life is gone. It is nothing. They have withdrawn the funds, if l apply for new they say they are waiting for decisions in Sweden”.
Do these ten years include the last 2+ in Heidelberg? Doesn’t matter, because since this article was published shortly after mine, Jungebluth’s star lawyer convinced the court that the evidence in it was to be disregarded. Also the title of that Expressen article, “Han sparkades ut efter skandalen“, does not matter, in fact the lawyer never ever mentioned its translation: “He was kicked out after scandal”. Knowing German justice from the Walles case though, I will soon probably be dragged to court for breaking the court injunction by quoting that Expressen title here. Jungebluth also told this to Swedish journalist:
“I have had invitations to speak at conferences, they have been retracted”.
To the Berlin court, he submitted (under oath!) a list of conferences where he participated as a speaker; the most recent one is from January 2016, at the Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research in Dresden. Yet to make the judge understand that Jungebluth is still a most welcome conference speaker internationally, the lawyer stated:
“The claimant is renowned and sought-for in Germany and world-wide! In an email from 14. May 2016 (Attachment AST 27) he received a request if he would like to give a talk, at a conference in Xi’an/China which takes place from 25. to 28. April 2017, the ‘2nd Annual International Congress of Genetics (ICG-2017)’.”
This is that decisive court evidence, an email from a “Ms Emma”, who invites “Dear P. Jungebluth” to speak about “Genomic Instability and Repair” at a predatory conference organised by the notorious predatory organiser Bitcongress. Even I (who never published 44 papers, certainly not in Lancet) receive such invitations regularly; they all are automatically directed to my spam folder.
Should the judge have been told all this above, before passing that injunction? You decide, and comment below. Also consider signing the Open Letter by Prof. Rafael Cantera, on the related Walles legal case against my reporting.