Paolo Macchiarini accused of misconduct as patient fights for her life: Part 9

Yesim Cetir underwent 191 additional surgeries after Macchiarini operated on her. Doctors reviewed Macchiarini’s publications and his patients’ records and found inconsistencies in his reporting.
6:47 | 02/13/21

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Transcript for Paolo Macchiarini accused of misconduct as patient fights for her life: Part 9
Around 2011, macchiarini became known for creating an artificial trachea. He wound up at karolinska, which of course gives out the Nobel prize in medicine. Paolo macchiarini was a water walker in the medical community. This is somebody who had been published in the best and most prestigious medical journals, and was literally bouncing from prestigious medical institution to prestigious medical institution. After months of looking at this, I think the conclusion was pretty obvious, and that is, this guy had falsified his qualifications, his work experience, and yet was going around the world performing human experiments masquerading as cutting edge operations. I then, of course, called karolinska. And I got a lot of hemming and hawing, because he was a superstar. At this point, paolo's own colleagues at the karolinska institute had been trying to sound the alarm about him for more than a year. Questions were being raised about a 24-year-old Turkish woman named yesim cetir, who came to machiarrini's attention after a routine elective surgery. The surgery went forward in Turkey. And in the course of that procedure, her trachea was nicked. The surgeons in Turkey tried to repair it, and there were some complications. Macchiarini was called in to consult, and the decision was made to operate. By this time, he had already performed four of his pioneering artificial trachea implants on patients. This is how the procedure was said to work -- the synthetic trachea was made of plastic, the same kind of plastic used to make water bottles. And the tube was first coated with the patients' stem cells. And once implanted, the patients' own stem cells would generate new tissue and a functioning trachea. She got on the airplane from her home country, and flew to Stockholm. Got off the plane, and went to the hospital where she then was operated on and had her trachea replaced, which had absolutely catastrophic effects. In total, we operated her 191 times for different complications. She had suffered at least two strokes. So she was partially blind. She couldn't walk. We had to clear her throat basically every four to six hours, 24 hours, 7 days a week. And doctors have described this as if you're waterboarding somebody. The emotional stress on the personnel who were with her, taking care of her in the icu, was just absolutely horrible. It was such a torture to see this young girl, and the suffering was horrendous. It was obvious that she wasn't getting better. And everything that we were doing was insufficient. Desperately trying to save yesim, matthias and several of his colleagues started digging through the papers paolo published about his largely successful, groundbreaking surgeries. But when they compared those papers with the patients' real life medical charts, they became convinced he was falsifying data to make the surgeries look more positive than they actually were. The first patient that most of paolo's science is based on was operated in 2011, according to paolo's scientific writings. Yes, you could see a healthy trachea starting to develop. According to the real biopsies, there was nothing. It was dead. It said that he had a normal functioning airway, and that wasn't true. What they said was that the patient was doing fine and had no major complications. And that's not true. One of his lungs was completely obliterated from a chronic infection. The patients were not getting better. It was unclear whether he actually had the proper ethical approval to do these operations on patients in the first place. It was beyond belief. We would have never in our wildest dreams thought that somebody would be capable of lying about so many things. But every stone we turned over, we found a new lie. The first thing we did was inform our boss. And then we also informed paolo macchiarini's bosses. We wanted to discuss this, to say, "If we don't do anything, a lot of people will die from this." Several of paolo's colleagues at the karolinska institute wrote up a detailed 500-page complaint, accusing him of endangering the lives of his patients. And the response was basically nothing. I think they thought there'd be some justice there, or at least some intellectual curiosity. What they found was the exact opposite. After several months, the university did launch an investigation into the allegations, which paolo denied, but ultimately ruled that while his work didn't always meet their standards, no scientific misconduct had occurred. Paolo's contract was renewed, and his work continued. It was just, you know, absolutely insane. We were incredibly upset about the whole thing. It was just unbelievable. But back in the United States, a damning article was about to be published, as Benita prepared to tell her story for the first time. He had no business operating. He was a fraud. He was a conman. Everything just tumbled, you know? Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, like a house of cards. Well, the doctor should be jailed for what he did.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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