Where Is Disgraced Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini Today?

When a new technique is introduced in the medical field, the world takes notice, and this is exactly what happened to surgeon Paolo Macchiarini. Born in 1958, the surgeon is best known for his work with the trachea and the Swiss-Italian surgeon enjoyed a sharp rise to fame in the late 2000s before it all came crashing down. Per The Guardian, Macchiarini became a notable figure in 2008 when he constructed an entirely new airway for a young woman using an artificial windpipe in a way that had never been done before. The surgery seemingly went well, and Macchiarini's fame continued to soar. However, behind the scenes, the surgeon was covering up a lot that would slowly start to come to light and begin his downfall.

 In June 2023, Macchiarini was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by a Swedish appeals court. This followed numerous appals by Macchiarini himself, who previously managed to have charges dismissed prior to the above sentencing. As of October 2023, the Swedish Supreme Court ruled in favor of the appeals court sentencing Macchiarini. In November 2023, a Netflix docuseries called "Bad Surgeon: Love Under The Knife" brought new awareness to his story, and in December 2023 Macchiarini's story will be told once again on Peacock's "Dr. Death.

His lies slowly started to unravel

In June 2014, per the Karolinska Institutet, Paolo Macchiarini's research was questioned for the first time by a Belgian researcher. Two further reports of scientific misconduct were filed later that year, questioning whether Macchiarini was overestimating how functional the tracheal implants were in reports. Following this, the Karolinska Institutet, where Macchiarini had been working since 2010, called for an external opinion on the situation in addition to their own ethics committee investigation. In 2015, the internal ethics committee cleared Macchiarini of misconduct. However, the external investigation found he was at fault for not accurately reporting research. The ethics committee stood by their decision, but so did the external investigator, who voiced his concerns to Vice-Chancellor Anders Hamsten.

Macchiarini didn't just lie about the success of his windpipe surgeries. The disgraced surgeon also lied about several other unrelated issues. His girlfriend at the time, investigative journalist Benita Alexander, spoke to ABC News about how Macchiarini affiliated himself with the Clintons, the Obamas, and even the Pope. Alexander shared how Macchiarini told her he was "tight" with the Clintons and even played tennis with Bill Clinton, later adding the Obamas to the network he was supposedly in. Macchiarini then told Alexander that he had become a private consulting doctor for Pope Francis, and even said that the Pope would officiate their wedding. Eventually, Alexander became suspicious, and discovered that everything was a lie.

A conviction

In 2016, after three patients who had received tracheal surgery had died, authorities in Sweden started to look into whether Paolo Macchiarini had committed an offense. Macchiarini was also fired from the Karolinska Institutet. Per NBC, Macchiarini was initially accused of manslaughter, but the investigation died down due to a lack of evidence. However, as reported by the Karolinska Institutet, it was opened up once more in 2018, with Macchiarini being accused of gross negligent bodily harm.

In 2019, Macchiarini was sentenced to 16 months in prison by an Italian court for abuse of office and document forgery (though he seemingly never served this sentence). In 2020, the Director of Public Prosecution said Macchiarini was to be indicted for aggravated assault following three surgeries that took place at Karolinska University Hospital. In 2022, an appeals court acquitted Macchiarini of two of the charges, sentencing him on one count of bodily harm via a suspended sentence. Almost 10 years after his research was first questioned, in 2023 Macchiarini was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on account of being guilty for gross assault. Per Reuters, the surgeon shared at a press conference that both his life and career were in tatters following the result of the investigation. Per Science, convicted people in Sweden don't have to report to prison until their appeal process is over. However, as of October 2023, the Karolinska Institutet reported the Supreme Court denied further appeals in the case.