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Sweden allows windpipe surgeon to serve prison term in Spain

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Sweden allows windpipe surgeon to serve prison term in Spain
Paolo Macchiarini at a press conference in June 2023. Photo: Magnus Andersson/TT

Swedish authorities said on Monday that Paolo Macchiarini, an Italian surgeon once hailed for pioneering windpipe surgery but later jailed for unethical experimental treatments, can serve his sentence in Spain, where he lives.

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Spanish authorities must still give the green light for the transfer requested by Macchiarini, 65.

He won praise in 2011 after claiming to have performed the world's first synthetic trachea transplants using stem cells, while he was a surgeon at Stockholm's Karolinska University Hospital.

The experimental procedure was hailed as a breakthrough in regenerative medicine.

But allegations soon emerged that the procedure had been carried out on patients who were not critically ill at the time of the surgery.

Three of his patients in Sweden died, though the deaths have not been directly linked to the surgeries. Together with his colleagues, Macchiarini performed a total of eight such transplants between 2011 and 2014 -- three in Sweden in 2011 and 2012, and five in Russia.

Four of the five Russian patients also died, according to Swedish media reports. The events were the basis for the Netflix docuseries "Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife" and the second season of US true crime show "Dr Death".

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In June 2023, Sweden's Svea court of appeal found him guilty of three counts of aggravated assault and ruled he acted with intent, sentencing him to two and a half years in prison.

"In view of the fact that Paolo Macchiarini is deemed to be domiciled in Spain, the Prison and Probation Service considers that social rehabilitation is facilitated by the sentence being served in Spain.  A transfer is therefore deemed appropriate," the Swedish Prison and Probation Service said in a ruling obtained by AFP on Monday.

Macchiarini has denied any wrongdoing. The surgeon was also employed by the Karolinska Institute (KI) research facility, which awards the Nobel medicine prize. An external KI review in 2015 found Macchiarini guilty of research misconduct, and the Institute sacked him in 2016 and found him guilty of scientific misconduct in 2018.

Medical journal The Lancet in 2018 retracted two papers authored by Macchiarini.

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