The German trachea transplanters Heike and Thorsten Walles fitted three patients with pig-intestine-based airway grafts. They responded to my inquisitive reporting about these with a court injunction, the trial takes place this week, on March 16th. A commission of their Unversity of Würzburg initially absolved Walles of all suspicions of research misconduct, only to start the investigation anew as evidence of heavy data manipulation in their papers emerged (see my previous report). Roland Jahns, specially recruited as medical expert from the same University Clinic Würzburg where both Walleses work, was dismissed after he insulted me as “pseudoscientist” to defend his colleagues’ questionable attitude to data integrity, medical ethics and patient welfare. A new expert will be recruited, but Jahns did reveal some clues to what happened to the two last Walles patients operated in Stuttgart in 2007 and 2009, just before they received their professorships in Würzburg.
It appears Thorsten Walles issued two radically opposing versions of the 2007 patient’s state. In his publications, he presented the intervention as “compassionate use” case and the patient as stable, but in need of innovative strategies to cure his condition. In the medical file however, Walles described the patient as terminally ill and dying from cancer. The intervention to replace his airways with a never-before-tested pig-intestine large patch was presented as a palliative approach, which however turns the entire concept of either palliative care or compassionate use care on its head. In any case, the graft had to be removed after only 2 weeks, the patient died four weeks later due to massive bleeding and multi-organ failure. Walles decided that this disastrous incident had nothing to do with the transplant, so when they recruited their next patient to sign an informed consent in 2009, they simply didn’t tell him what happened to his predecessor. That last patient was also post-suicidal and in psychiatric treatment (though not yet officially of unsound mind, his mental state further deteriorated later on). Continue reading “Walles tracheal transplant patients: secrets and lies”