Italian surgeon gets his sentence appealed in Sweden case
COPENHAGEN Swedish prosecutors on Wednesday appealed a verdict handed down to an Italian surgeon who was brought to justice for causing bodily harm in experimental stem cell tracheal transplants on three patients who died.
Stem cell researcher Dr. Paolo Macchiarini made headlines in 2011 for having performed the world’s first stem cell tracheal transplant at Sweden’s leading hospital. Once considered a leading figure in regenerative medicine, Macchiarini received the credit for creating the world’s first trachea partly made from a patient’s own stem cells.
Macchiarini was fired from Karolinska Institutet in March 2016 for violating medical ethics after being accused of falsifying his CV and distorting his work. In December 2018, Sweden decided to resume a previously closed investigation in three cases.
He was allegedly operated on inappropriately by three people between 2011 and 2014 who later died, but Maccharini was not accused of killing the patients. He denied any wrongdoing.
On 16 June, the Solna District Court acquitted him of two charges of assault and sentenced him to a suspended sentence in the third case. He would have been sentenced to five years in prison if the court had complied with the prosecutor’s request.
“In all cases, the interventions were contrary to science and best practice,” Chief Prosecutor Mikael Björk said in a statement on Wednesday when he announced the appeal to the Svea Court of Appeal. “It seems clear to me that these have been completely illegal human experiments and the penalty should be a long prison sentence given the nature of the crime and the high penalty value.”
When Macchiarini’s first tracheal transplant was reported in the medical journal Lancet 2008, it was hailed as a breakthrough in regenerative medicine. Macchiarini’s new airways – partly made with the help of the patient’s stem cells – were considered to herald a new era in which new organs could be manufactured in the laboratory.
Although an independent Swedish commission found many problems in Macchiarini’s work, he denied the allegations and said they were false.
He donated artificial tracheas to 20 patients from countries that included Spain, Russia, Iceland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Critics say Macchiarini went against medical ethics for performing dangerous procedures without proven benefit and that he made descriptions of his patients’ conditions.
In 2019, an Italian court sentenced Macchiarini to 16 months in prison for forging documents and for abusing the office.
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