My major source of information on this is an article in the WP. I haven’t seen very much English-language coverage elsewhere, but I welcome links if anyone has them.
There’s a place in Sweden called the Karolinska Institute, a medical school with an associated teaching/research hospital, the Karolinska University Hospital.
The hospital, up until March of this year, employed a scientist, Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. It seems that Dr. Macchiarini was kind of a hot shot:
Macchiarini captured headlines in 2011, a year after he had been recruited by the institute, for his work in regenerative medicine. That year he implanted a “bioartificial” trachea, one made from plastic and the patient’s own stem cells, into a man named Andemariam Beyene.
This is kind of cool, at least to me. Regenerative medicine is sort of a holy grail: imagine if, instead of a heart transplant and the lifetime of anti-rejection/immunosuppressivee drugs, you could just grow a new heart? Or liver? Or spleen?
(Tangentially related: Isabelle Dinoire died in April, though her death is just now being reported in accordance with her family’s wishes. Ms. Dinore was the first person to receive a partial face transplant, and her death is being attributed in part to the immunosuppressive drugs she had been taking.)
So what went wrong?
But in January 2014, as the Iceland Review noted, the trachea Macchiarini had implanted became loose, killing Beyene.
“trachea…became loose”. But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini did three of these surgeries. Two of the patients are dead, and the third has been in intensive care since 2012.
But wait, there’s more:
The investigator who examined his studies said that Macchiarini was guilty of scientific misconduct by omitting or fabricating information about his patients’ postoperative status to make the procedure seem more successful than it really was.
But wait, there’s more: Dr. Macchiarini didn’t get signed consent forms from two of the patients, and the one he did get isn’t valid. (“that one signed form would not have been approved’ since the patient wasn’t afforded the option of discussing the procedure with an independent medical expert”).
But wait, there’s more:
The report pointed out that a different synthetic material was used in each transplant, which hinted at a lack of research into which one actually worked and suggested an unreadiness for usage in human beings.
There was also illegal use of “growth-stimulating drugs” without proper permits.
But wait, there’s more! It isn’t just that Dr. Macchiarini was a rogue researcher who has since been fired:
The English version of the report stated:
There are many instances of KI [Karolinska Institute – DB] employees being involved in the discussions preceding and following up surgery. KI has also, in several contexts, cited the transplantations as part of its own activities. For example, they have been quoted as research successes in KI’s evaluations of how research funding has been utilized.
This report opined that KI never should have hired Macchiarini in the first place, considering the references the institution received concerning the surgeon.
It was the usual stuff: negative references, false information on his CV, you know the drill.
Lastly, the report found the hospital extended Macchiarini’s contract twice — once in 2013 and one in 2015 — with “no real evaluation or assessment of Macchiarini’s work.”
But. Wait. There’s. More.
The Karolinska Institute is very closely tied to the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.
On Tuesday, the Nobel Assembly, which is in charge of choosing the recipient of the institution’s prize for physiology or medicine, asked Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson and Anders Hamsten, two of its 50 judges, to resign. Both are former vice chancellors of the Karolinska Institute, the Swedish medical university associated with the Karolinska University Hospital that employed Macchiarini.
(If I understand correctly, those 50 judges are just the ones who decide on the medicine prize.)
The Swedish Minister of Higher Education also fired Wallberg-Henriksson from her position as “Sweden’s chancellor of all public universities”. The minister is also demanding that everyone who was on the board of the Karolinska Institute while Dr. Macchiarini was employed there resign. “Any who choose not to resign will be replaced, Reuters reported.”
By the way: Dr. Macchiarini is also being criminally investigated. It looks like the prosecutors may press involuntary manslaughter charges against him, depending on the outcome of the investigation.
(It occurs to me: this would make for another great “Law and Order” script. Your cold open is a guy walking down the street with his girlfriend when he suddenly drops dead, coroner finds the loose trachea, McCoy charges the doctor with murder…)
(Question for any TV writers who might be reading this: is it okay to write spec scripts for shows that aren’t on the air any longer?)
Edited to add: Just found this: a February article from Vanity Fair. Seems that NBC News did a two-hour long documentary on Dr. Macchiarini.
I swear, I need an AutoText for “But wait, there’s more”: Dr. Macchiarini was also involved in a romance with the producer of the documentary. As in, they were going to get married. By the Pope. Who personally approved their marriage, even though they were both divorced and she is Episcopalian. And who was going to host the wedding at Castel Gandolfo.
“…Who the hell are you and what the hell is wrong with you?”