Italian surgeon convicted in Sweden over patient deaths

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -A Swedish appeals court on Wednesday convicted Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini of gross assault for implanting artificial tracheas in three patients who later died, sentencing him to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Macchiarini, who has denied wrongdoing, said he would appeal the outcome. His lawyer did not elaborate, but such cases could be appealed to Sweden’s Supreme Court.

The former surgeon at Karolinska University Hospital, which is linked to the institute that awards the Nobel Prize for Medicine, was charged over the experimental trachea procedure carried out in 2011-12.

Last year a lower court had found Macchiarini not guilty of aggravated assault in all three cases of death, and guilty of causing grievous bodily harm in a fourth case, handing down a suspended sentence.

Striking down the three acquittal verdicts, the appeals court said in a statement it did “not question that the surgeon hoped his method would work” but found that Macchiarini had “acted with criminal intent”.

“The investigation shows that he realised the risk that the procedures would cause the patients physical injuries and suffering, and that he was indifferent to the realisation of these risks,” it added.

Macchiarini told a press conference he was disappointed by the outcome of the trial, and in particular with the court’s conclusion that he had acted with intent.

As a result of the case he had already lost his job and career, Macchiarini said, adding that he felt “imprisoned”.

In 2016 the Swedish government dismissed the board of the Karolinska Institute after an investigation found it was negligent when hiring Macchiarini and letting him operate on patients.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, editing by Terje Solsvik and Mark Heinrich)