A decision was announced by the Swedish Prosecution Authority in Gothenburg on the Paolo Macchiarini case today. The issue are plastic trachea transplants the scandal surgeon performed at the hospital of the Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm, Sweden. No other country showed much interest so far to even properly investigate the horrendous trail of death left by Macchiarini and his colleagues, never mind consider criminal investigations. The earlier decision by state prosecutor was changed in part and the preliminary investigation will be reopened (see this press release and this document).
Macchiarini’s human experiments with trachea transplants started in Germany, but the first ever transplant of a full circumferential piece of trachea happened in Spain, which brought him and his British partners fame and success. The murderous freak circus soon moved to Italy, then to Russia. Back then it was about decellurised cadaveric trachea scaffolds, and because those proved deadly for patients and onerous in procurement, Macchiarini moved to an even more deadly, but easily available and cheap material: plastic. KI, where he was sneaked into a professorship in late 2010, was the place where the deadly human experimenting entered a new stage with plastic trachea. Swedes soon became scared, but were too morbidly fascinated to watch, so KI professor Macchiarini continued with their approval in Russia, until he was sacked first at KI, and then sequentially in two Russian universities.
As reminder, Macchiarini (together with his gang) was originally expected to be indicted by Swedish public prosecutor for manslaughter, but in October 2017 the charges were dropped in full. That was because for some peculiar reason the prosecutor’s office decided to seek advice from two other regmed-enthusiastic surgeons, Michael Olausson and Hasse Ejnell, of Gothenburg University. Their specific qualifications? A failed trachea transplant of their own where a patient incidentally also died soon after, past collaboration with Macchiarini on another trachea transplant, and a conviction of research misconduct.
One year ago, in December 2017, the Swedish Prosecution Authority picked up the case, after the families of two victims lodged a protest against the public prosecutors decision. The complaints were now successful, and investigation has been reopened.
There were three patients who received from Macchiarini plastic trachea transplants at KI in 2011-2012, all are dead. What the Swedish prosecutors had to decide on, in the nutshell, was whether these patients died because of Macchiarini’s plastic trachea being a murderous tool used with intent on grossly misinformed patients without proper ethics approvals, for the purpose of personal career-advancement; or were those three Karolinska patients just some pushy foreigners who were as good as dead anyway already before the operation.
The latter is actually how Karolinska University Hospital sees them. Andemariam Beyene, a PhD student from Erithrea living with his family in Iceland, was worldwide the first ever recipient of a plastic trachea, operated for the purpose of a (now retracted) Lancet publication Jungebluth et al, 2011. He was subjected to a never-before tested method in June 2011 and died, slowly and painfully, in January 2014, leaving behind a widow and three children. A University of Iceland investigation found some guilt with Macchiarini’s partner, Tomas Gudbjartsson, who corralled the patient to Macchiarini and his death, for the glory of a Lancet paper. The investigators also advised the widow, Merhawit Baryamikael Tesfaslase, to sue Karolinska for damages. There is a very informative interview with Merhawit in an Icelandic newspaper, done by the journalist Ragnheidur Linnet, published in November 2018. After Andemariam died, Merhawit found herself unable to feed the family and moved with the children to Sweden, where she now works full time in a school.
From another article by same journalist, we learn that Karolinska University Hospital originally announced in a newspaper to compensate Merhawit for her loss, but now they changed their mind and refused any payment:
“Karolinska University Hospital has sent a letter to the Swedish lawyer of Andemariams Beyene’s widow that she will not get the compensation previously offered by the hospital.”
For the hospital, what happened to Beyene was nothing but an unfortunate accident, subject to coverage by Swedish health insurance LÖF. The letter was signed by Melvin Samsom, CEO of Karolinska University Hospital (who recently resigned):
“The letter offered Merhawit only sincere apology for the pain the clinic caused her and her family with the treatment they provided to Andemariam Beyene. It states that the responsibility was with Paolo Macchiarini and refers to the content of the report by Kjell Asplund, former medical director in Sweden, and says that the hospital will not pay her any compensation, and instead refers her to the health insurance company in Sweden.
Samsom said in the letter that although Karolinska University Hospital did not follow accepted procedures and the system’s organization was broken, it could not have guaranteed for the safety of Andemariam Beyene.
At the end of the letter he says that she can apply for compensation in the relevant insurance scheme, similar to the other patients in Sweden who believe they have been harmed by medical treatment and that the Karolinska University Hospital will give her support with this, at her request. The benefits, however, are very low…”
This is my coverage of the Asplund investigation, incidentally Asplund has been now appointed as member of the Board at the Karolinska hospital, after the entire board was dismissed earlier this year.
The family of the second trachea transplant victim, that of Chris Lyles, is apparently still in denial. After all, they even agreed to come to Macchiarini’s made-up Vatican wedding with the US journalist Benita Alexander (in that regard, watch her recent documentary “He Lied About Everything“. Because nobody complained about that trachea transplant, Chris Lyles’ death will not be investigated.
As for the last victim, Yesim Cetir, her family is suing the plastic trachea and bioreactor manufacturers in US, the company BioStage, formerly known as Harvard Apparatus. I cover those news and Yesim’s story here, you can also read in that article why Macchiarini switched from decellurised cadaveric tracheas to plastic ones. It was Yesim’s family and Merhawit who pushed the Swedish Prosecution Authority to reopen the case after the disastrous decision from October 2017.
This was now announced by Swedish Prosecution Authority in the press release:
“– We have chosen to review the entire case, i.e. all three patients who had their tracheas replaced. The investigation will now be resumed concerning two of the patients; a woman from Turkey and a man from Iceland. The medical evidence concerning the third patient, a man from the US, is not sufficient and therefore this investigation will not be reopened, said Director of Public Prosecution Mikael Björk.
To resume the investigation is a prerequisite for initiating a prosecution, should the prosecutor decide to do so in the future. It is still too early to form an opinion as to which decision the prosecutor will make.
– I have made a different judicial assessment to the former prosecutor. This does not mean that the prosecutor made an incorrect assessment as the legal position is unclear. There are only a few directive judgements from the Supreme Court. However, in my opinion there exist the pre-conditions to resume the parts of the investigation that concern the Icelandic man and the Turkish woman, said Mikael Björk.
Director of Public Prosecution Mikael Björk will be responsible for the resumed investigation.”
So far, only one person was found guilty and fined in a court of law on the Macchiarini trachea transplant affair. It was Leonid Schneider, sentenced in two court trials, in lower and appeal court in Berlin, on behalf of MacchiarinI’s right-hand man Philipp Jungebluth. The judge declared all Swedish misconduct investigations and sackings as slanderous or irrelevant, and concluded that both Jungebluth and Macchiarini never did anything wrong. Professor Macchiarini himself served as court’s expert witness, via a written testimony. This court decision is final and cannot be appealed, except maybe in EU Court of Justice. I am still paying the bills which keep arriving. Jungebluth works as surgeon in his home town of Wolfenbüttel, supported and protected by German medical colleagues; Macchiarini apparently continues to perform operations in Europe. This polyglottic thoracic surgeon has licence to practice medicine in Germany, Italy, Spain, and other countries, and he sure is not afraid to use it.
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The Swedish patient was someone I had not heard about before: Teddy Bondefalk. He had a thyroid operation, Macchiarini was the surgeon, he also took 4 cm of the trachea.
A retired policeman, but he does not get any legal help with appeals 😦
I know the story, Mr Bondefalk had huge luck. You can probably guess what Macchiarini planned to put in as replacement.
What an extraordinary tale of ethical violations and corruption spanning so many countries! And it’s sad for the victims that no one wants to accept any responsibility.
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