The Bizarre Way Dr. Paolo Macchiarini Tried To Connect Himself With The Obamas, The Clintons, And The Pope

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, once considered a superstar surgeon, has more recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2008, he pioneered a seemingly life-saving surgery to replace a patient's trachea with a synthetic version, using the patient's own stem cells to make sure the new windpipe would be accepted by the patient's body. He performed the surgery on 17 or more people, according to The Guardian, and most of them later died.

In June 2022, a Swedish court found him guilty of causing bodily harm — a felony in Sweden — and gave him a suspended sentence. He was found not guilty on other charges because the patients involved were near death already (via Science). In June 2023, he was found guilty of gross assault and sentenced to 30 months in prison (per Science). According to ABC News, Macchiarini's colleagues accused him of lying in papers he published about his work, suggesting he knew how dangerous it could be. Shockingly, this wasn't Macchiarini's only scam — the outlet also interviewed his ex-fiancée, Benita Alexander, about the massive lies he told her.

The Clandestine Network

Benita Alexander (pictured) was a producer for NBC when she met Dr. Paolo Macchiarini. She was producing a documentary about his work with a young Korean girl on whom Macchiarini performed his trachea surgery. The girl later died.

Alexander told ABC News that when she fell for Macchiarini, she was worried about journalistic ethics, but that turned out to be the least of her problems. During their relationship and engagement, she said Macchiarini told her about a "clandestine network" he was part of that provided on-call medical care to world leaders. Specifically, he mentioned the Pope, the Obamas, and the Clintons. He said Bill Clinton was a close friend, and that they played tennis together.

When the pair began planning their wedding, Alexander was worried they wouldn't be able to get married in the Catholic Church because they were both divorced. Macchiarini said he'd see if the Pope could help them out, then came back with exciting news: The Pope had agreed to perform the wedding himself.

Macchiarini began to plan a lavish ceremony for them (held in a castle) in which Andrea Bocelli and John Legend were supposed to be performing.

The truth comes out

Dr. Paolo Macchiarini's deception started to fall apart when a friend informed Benita Alexander that the Pope wasn't even planning to be in Rome on the wedding day. Alexander called the castle venue and the supposed caterer, only to find that no one at either place had heard of Macchiarini. She began to use her journalistic skills to investigate him, even hiring private detectives in the U.S. and Italy. A representative from the Vatican confirmed that Macchiarini wasn't one of the Pope's doctors, and someone who knew the Clintons told Alexander they had never heard of Macchiarini, either. She also couldn't find anything tying him to the Obamas.

Alexander eventually discovered that Macchiarini was, in fact, still married. In 2016, Vanity Fair wrote an article on the wild ride that was Alexander's engagement to Macchiarini. According to Science, this was published just after a Swedish investigative documentary revealed some of Macchiarini's medical misconduct. The documentary led to Macchiarini being fired from the prestigious Karolinska Institute, and soon afterward, the legal proceedings against him began. In 2023, Netflix released its own docuseries on the surgeon's crimes.