The worldwide acknowledged surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, researchers and medical doctor operating in Karolinska Institutet, was arrested in Italy this week. He has to respond to a number of charges, among which attempt of fraud and exaction. Police waited for him outside the operating theater in the Careggi Hospital (Florence – Italy) where the surgeon was working, and then escorted him at home, where is now forced to stay till future notice.

Prof. Macchiarini is the first scientist that successfully transplanted an artificial trachea in a patient without using immunosuppressive drugs and he’s considered a top-notch researcher in the field of regenerative medicine.

Macchiarini charges has been formulated by the judger Alessandro Moneti: “Macchiarini primarily follows his economical interests rather then the professional deontology”. The accuse believes Macchiarini has proposed to some patients to pay him “under-the-desk” to let them skip the queue for a transplant, breaking the rules of Careggi and the Italian low. The judger’s documentation formulates that Macchiarini took advantage of the fragile psychological situation of some patients for the benefit of his wallet.

“extreme measures” – The italian newspaper Corriere della Sera unwraps the chain of events that lead to the arrest: everything started from the exposure of the wife of one of Macchiarini’s patient, to whom the surgeon (seems to have) asked 150.000€ for directing the case to Hannover (Germany) where collaborators would have taken care of him. The fraud never worked, because the family of the patient had not such economical possibility, the wife said.

Same story with another patient to whom Macchiarini promised hospitalization into a privite structure in UK previous payment of 130.000€. Apparently the surgeon also misguided the patient, saying that the urgent operation could have been done exclusively in London, and it was not possible in Careggi hospital.

The defense lawyer Rosario Bevacqua said that Macchiarini is “very annoyed of having to suffer from such accusations, and he’s regretting of being back in Italy to work”. He adds that since the facts are old (2010) and the charges are just for attempted fraud, such extreme measurement (the arrest) could have been avoided.

Careggi Hospital is just waiting for justice to follow its path (which considering the country, it may take a while…). The hospital also states clearly that these facts are not questioning the value and the quality of Macchiarini research, published in the world most important medical journals.

Never ending divorce – The bad relationship between Macchiarini and Italy is nothing new: in 2008, the local health manager of Tuscany promised to the surgeon a professorship position in Florence that never arrived. He was also proposed to become the head of the European Center for Thoracic Research, which also never happened. Macchiarini will later complain in an interview to Corriere della Sera that this “impaired academia path” was because recommended people comes always before valid researchers.

Things didn’t get better between the surgeon and the Italian hospital when, in 2010, one of Macchiarini’s patients died due to an infection after an operation, and the doctor dropped to the Hospital the entire responsibility for what happened. This fact, along with another series of misunderstanding with Carreggi Hospital, made Macchiarini resign the same year. Shortly later, Karolinksa Institute stepped in and offered to the already world-applauded doctor an “invited professorship” position, and basically unlimited possibilities to grow his research in Stockholm.

But Macchiarini has one foot in each country: in February this year, Macchiarini accepted a new contract with Careggi for 310.000€/year to direct a newly formed European Institute of the High-Respiratory Track, where Macchiarini was given the mission to educate the new medical generation and to continue his research. According to this contract, Macchiarini had to spend at least 3 days a week in Carreggi. Quite a challenge to split between the opposite side of Europe, I must say, but I guess this is how it goes when you become the guru of respiratory track transplantation.

Karolinska reaction – today KI puts on its website a lapidary comment about the event:

The University Director of KI Bengt Norrving says that “At present, we have no reason at all to doubt [about] our colleague or the research he does here”. And concludes that the Institute is in “regular touch with him and is keeping a watchful eye on how the legal case against him unfolds”.

Driven justice? – Due to the uneasy time between Macchiarini and Careggi hospital, someone could easily envision that the surgeon may have stepped onto a number of doctors feet, and we know how sensitive some professionals are. Comments on the Corriere della Sera article about Macchiarini arrest say that this is just “driven justice” – something needed to get read of a troublesome colleague.

Funny enough, Macchiarini has been bitten by the Italian justice right when his case was hitting the media. Last month the New York Times pointed him as a protagonist of regenerative medicine. Few weeks ago, I attended a popular science lecture of Macchiarini in Karolinska that was broadcasted by the Swedish television, where he showed his great achievements in trachea transplantation and his new results (not yet published) of synthetics organs creation. This episode clearly shows that Karolinska is very proud of its surgeon: this month Macchiarini was also featured in the Institutet official magazine.

But the question remains: is it really possible that this excellent scientist have been arrested exclusively based on some potent colleague whim? I rather prefer keep a safe distance from conspiracy theories, which usually never lead to anything good.

Let’s wait to see what justice has to say.

53 Responses

  1. I just watched Meredith Viera’s special about Dr. Macchiarini’s work to help people with tracheal transplants made from stem cells. I cannot recall the last time I have watched a TV program that brought so many tears to my eyes. What a beautiful man and a wonderfully skilled person he is. I cannot imagine the years of frustrations, successes, highs and lows in committing oneself to something like this. I had tears streaming down my eyes–such strength, warmth, humanness in this eyes. The love and desire he has to help human beings, especially children, was obvious in his face and his words. I wanted to reach through the TV and hug this beautiful man and the others on his team. Thank you for bringing this important show to us, and for your hard work and caring hands. I will remember you

    1. This guy is a fraud. He faked his CV and published misleading and inaccurate articles about his trachea transplants. Now Karolinska Institutet’s name is tarnished! Just seen the 3-episode swedish documentary about this guy. Poor victims! Sick, twisted doctor.

      1. This guy is a piece of shit he tried to extort money from his patients to do illegal operations.documentaries are made about how this guy is a fraud in his career, and personal life.

        1. Totally agree! He’s a narcissistic, sociopath with no regard for human life! He’s in it for himself and that makes him a danger to society!

  2. Couldn’t agree more Lynn. I experienced the same emotions. Having worked for one of the early pioneers of lung transplantation surgery in the US, I know how brilliant and dedicated these surgeons are and they are devastated when losing a patient. There is a great deal of professional jealousy and, frankly, are often targets by colleagues.

    1. So what do you now say, especially to the young Russian mother who would still be alive today to care for her son if she never met that fraud Macchiarini. What a horrible person, sticking lumps of plastic coated with stem cells into peoples throats claiming the plastic would intergrate into the body, even as a layman I would question the validity of this. You ought to hang your head in shame claiming it was jealousy that prompted his colleagues to report their own findings when trying to sort out the mess left by his risky surgery on patients, patients that were left high and dry when the complications set in. This guy risked other peoples lives in their quest to develop a plastic trachea, in fact other than a few rats they skipped animal testing altogether and put humans at risk. The doctors that reported him are the heros. BTW his trachea transplants have since been proven to be a fraud and he has been arrested in Italy.

  3. I was touched by Viera’s special on Stem cell transplants and Dr. Macchiarini. In her summation she referred to the three men who were instrumental in making Hanna’s surgery possible by naming their religions. She referred to the Catholic doctor, the jewish doctor and the rebellious Dr. Macchiarini. Why did she not refer to Dr. Macchiarini’s religion as she did the first two? I searched the web and was unable to find any reference to Dr. Macchiarini’s religion. Can any one give me a reliable source that states what his religious preference is? Everyone thanked God and prayed for Hanna except Dr. Macchiarini. At no time did he mention God or say he prayed for Hanna. Is this just an oversight in the special, or is Dr. Macchiarini a non-believer?

  4. I just watched the same show and was crying the hardest when Dr. Macchirini said Hannah was always with him while performing the same trachea surgery.
    He is a rare gift that is such a blessing people don’t recognize it. What a humble man focused on saving lives and being the pioneer of regenerative stem cell surgery. Thank you Dr. Macchiarini and please don’t ever stop.

  5. Wow me too….I just watched the great job that Viera (NBC), such a great documentary! And I had to come to my computer and search more about Dr Macchiarini….wow I agree with you Lynn, the word hero was used to describe Dr Macch but really he is like more like a saint, he is so humble, very dedicated to help humankind. He is the prototype of how medicine is taught in other countries, it is to serve, it is a calling, etc. You can see how he interacts with his patients,etc. It is amazing!
    You clearly see he is not an American trained doctor where $$$$$$ is the main reason for going to med school….and then see patients like cattle. We need more doctors like Dr Macchiarini in this world!
    How a pitty what the dysfunctional Italian justice system did to him but at the end the truth has prevailed. He went out of Italy because of the burocracy and because they didn’t give him space&freedom to work….and gues what Sweden, Spain, Germany, etc has done it.
    Dr Macchbelongs to the world, he has made history not just for his academic achievementsbut in my eyes also because of his dedication, commitment, etc to his patients and on top of everything very humble. God bless him!!!
    American doctors take note and try to do a “pinch” of how Dr Macch cares about his patients!

    1. He did not give a damm about his patients, all but 2 died. He put peoples lives at risk for his own advancement. He had the audacity to run a competition in Russia, the winner would get a new plastic trachea. The woman who won could have lived out a long life with her husband and young son but Macchirini took all that away, within months of the transplant she was dead and died in a horrible way with Macchirini nowhere to be seen.

  6. Dr. Macchiarini is one of those pioneer that suffers the criticism of colleagues because of his innovations. He seems to be a real scientist, an authentic human being, a passionate of his career! He shows and share his soul as a medical doctor. His resume is just impressive! I am very happy to know that there are still doctors with that high sensibility toward patients! Besides, he is a very attractive, good-looking Italian! Bravissimo Doctore!!!!! Tu sei bello!!!!

  7. Craig, yes I noticed how they called him a rebellious Dr and he didn’t appear religious surprised me…because Italy is very Catholic! but it doesn’t matter Dr Macch obviously does the walk and not the talk!
    It was clear to all of us how he cares, his warmth, strength, dedication, commitment,etc to his patients….besides being very humble, amazing!
    And such a shame he didn’t or will scape the jealousy of collegues who didn’t do what this blessed, saint-like doctor has done and does!

  8. Craig, I don’t see what difference it makes if Dr. Macchiarini is a believer, an agnostic or an atheist when he operates. BTW, Aurora, many Italians are nominally Catholic, i.e., they go through the motions: baptism, marriage in church, last rites. Not many are very Catholic.

    1. mgromeo 42, aurora – I agree, a person’s humanity and achievements does not depend upon his/her religion. Atheists and agnostics are often discriminated against for their non-belief in God(s). Dr. Macchiarini, if he is a non-believer, is just one of many humanitarian high achievers who do not need superstition to be a good person.
      Dr. Semmelweis was criticized for introducing new ways of preventing hospital infection; Dr. Harvey was ostracized for his discovery of blood circulation; Drs. Crick and Watson were instructed to stop their research; Dr. Lister was ridiculed for introducing sterilization procedures. I could go on.
      Of course there will be failures and lives lost, but that is the cost of progress. We must remember ridicule and criticism is not totally bad. Science requires peer review and medical advances must be able to survive critics before they are accepted for general use. Bravo! Dr. Macchiarini, you deserve reward and recognition for your humanitarian achievements.

  9. I am amazed that so many of you are writing! After the show, I too searched him on Google! Very very impressed on how he spoke and carried himself. He is one person I wish I could meet. But there was no mention about his family. His wife must be very proud of him. What a gentle man!

  10. I agree with all the above; except I can’t help feeling upset about a child and her family essentially being “used” for human expeimentation, and all the trauma and suffering of the child herself. I am a pediatric nurse for 28 yrs., and am familiar with long-term goundbreaking medical advances in children….in particular I wonder about the Korean-American nurse who convinced these parents to pursue further procedures on their child, when at one point they had decided not to prolong her suffering.
    What counselling and therapy was involved for this family? The TV special never addressed this issue, nor the issue of how the child’s pain, trauma, and quality of life were affected. Very mixed feelings all around these issues.
    DMulkey, RN, CPNP

    1. I am sorry you feel conflicted. Paralysis by analysis happens too much in this great country in which we live and has affected US All to the highest echelons of leadership. I am thankful that he is a gift from above to all the world as he will be remembered someday as Luis Pasteur and other trailblazers in medical and health history. So, … you ponder that idea for as long as you need. Until then, may God Bless US All!

  11. Sorry, I do not agree w/ you.To me, we do not need to know if he practices a religion, he certainly practices humanism, which I believe comes from God. This little childs family did not have the time for much in the way of counseling, this will come as his methods progress, she had no choice at the time, she would have died. What Dr. Macchiarini accomplished what she needed to breathe, but she had other issues. Very brave little girl, never seemed to be suffering, very happy child.
    I certainly do not think this family or the child were “used” for experimentation, they went to him, he did all he could at this point. It was very obvious how he cared about every patient, he’s a true healer and I pray and wish him continued success and I believe he will achieve it!!!!!How I would love to meet such a mind!

    1. Good point, Claire. As God is THE CREATOR and made us all and everything, I am grateful for Dr. Macchiarini as I am grateful for you and everything He made, … including this planet, etc. Dr. Macchiarini is from the Creator and my job is not to label or define him from afar, yet to pray for his continued success in this groundbreaking, disruptive technology for which he is running into the status quo who do not accept changes that do not have their signatures. While giving thanks, lets remember the hospital in Stockholm that is backing him. I pray the Italian authorities free him from house arrest so he may continue to positively impact lives of generations to come.

  12. I am horrified. The little girl was doing fine. She was growing and developing well. She was not dying. Now she’s dead. I think the work he is doing is ethical if he is trying his techniques on someone for whom the risk is the only chance at life. It is a tragedy that he used that child to further his research.

    1. I am unsettled by your comment, “The little girl was doing fine.” Please define “fine.” If it were your child who was not born with a windpipe, would that be fine? If you could not take her home after giving birth, feed her, change her diapers, cuddle and lover her, would that be “fine”? Dr. Macchiarini attempted to provide a normal life with a revolutionary procedure that had succeeded previously. The family was in distress as they were informed at her birth there was nothing the doctors at the Korean hopital could do to provide her a windpipe and she would not survive. There was no hope given to the parents and they stayed away and felt guilty about signing a “Do Not Resuscitate” form. They did not visit their infant daughter. Yet when the hospital called and advised her tube they used to enter the lungs from the esophagus at birth had come out, they rescinded the DNR order as they held onto hope in the face of all the adversity. When approached about Dr. M’s work, they Googled the info and pursued his assistance. Whatever time they had together with hope was worth the attempt. Check out this link and the smiling, hopeful family.

      At least they have some memories to cherish.
      Rest in peace, Hannah Warren!

    2. A missing trachea wasn’t her only problem. She had a problem with her esophagus. Imagine if you lived your life never leaving the hospital, not even going outside ONCE, doing things normal kids do, playing in the snow, going to the park. Dr. Macchiarini attempted to provide her a normal life, not use her for his radical experiment.

  13. The girl did not die from the surgery. Dr. Macchiarini is very charitable and genuinely cares about his patients.


    Lets see how these investigations will end up.

    I do not want to comment on the specific case as long as investigations are going on.

    But as a general comment, trying to be a hero and to save lives does not justify skipping SOPs regarding ethics approval for compassionate treatment. Otherwise, anyone with a personal interest (and boosting your career with spectacular novel treatments is a personal interest) would define by him/herselfe when compassionate treatment starts and you will see uncontrolled experimental treatment everywhere……

    I am extremely skeptical with rushing stem cells into clinical application and the low success rate of Dr. Macchiarini’s treatment seems to be in agreement with that.

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  16. Onko Macchiarini yhä kotiarestissa Italiassa. Katsoin hänen työtään balettitanssija Julian operaatiosta TV:stä. Rukoilen hänen puolestaan. Taivaan Isä auta häntä!!!

  17. What a complete fraud on so many levels! Not a great scientist with humanitarian pursuits, but seeking very ill patients for his own experiences and the hospital money and notoriety that come with these surgeries. Very shaky credentials from many universities, all over the world. Lots of hospital jumping around, all very suspect. Man seeking underserved idol worship, pathetic. Liar to family, colleagues and all.

  18. I just read an article in vanity fair about this “saint” as the doctor was referred to in some of the comments. He may be a great scientist, but saint, he definitely is not. The article details how he misled one of the female producers working on the Viera piece into believing that he was the personal physician of Pope Francis. Furthermore, he promised the producer that the wedding ceremony would be officiated by the pope himself in July 2015. What follows is the stuff one only sees in movies. Invitations went out, Boccelli would sing, the Clintons and Obamas would be in attendance, it was going to be an epic affair. Long story short, turns out that the Vatican never even heard of the man and neither did any of the big shot guests who were supposed to attend. Furthermore, the doctor was still legally married as of the date of his supposed new wedding. Moral of the story is, let’s be careful about the attributes we give people that we don;t really know personally. I am sure he deserves all the accolades in his professional life, but as a descent human being, he fails miserably.

  19. All I can say is, this man wouldn’t touch one of my animals much less one of my family members. I just watched the show on ID that told the story about Benetia, the beautiful lady that he scammed his love and devotion to her!!! To think he is still married and goes on like he has done nothing wrong and wanting people to think he is the victim !!! All I can say is I hope he keeps his lieing self where he is. I am sure he has many more women at this very moment that he is wining and dining and believing his every word!! I had to laugh when they told how much his fake jelwlery was!! What a piece of work!! You are a very ugly man!’ And shame on you!!!!

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