The Macchiarini case has changed KI
The Macchiarini case has led Karolinska Institutet to introduce new procedures to ensure compliance with the rules and the maintenance of high ethical standards.
In 2023, Paolo Macchiarini, former surgeon at Karolinska University Hospital and visiting professor at KI, was convicted by the Svea Court of Appeal of gross assault concerning three operations performed at Karolinska University Hospital in 2011 and 2012. The judgement has become final. He was dismissed from KI in 2016 and in 2018 was declared guilty of scientific misconduct by the KI president. A timeline chronicling the sequence of the events can be found here.
The actions of Macchiarini have left deep scars, principally among his patients and their relatives. They also prompted a raft of measures at KI, beginning in 2016, with the explicit aim of making sure that nothing like it can ever happen again.
The changes made at KI have been based in part on the recommendations of various investigative bodies, like the external commission led by Sten Heckscher och KI and the Internal Audit’s examination of Macchiarini's former employer, the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology (Clintec).
Steps taken by KI include:
- A new management organisation with clear ties between responsibilities and powers.
- Tighter hiring and employment procedures:
- Anew committee to assist the president in cases concerning breaches of accepted scientific practice (as regards suspected scientific misconduct, the government passed a new act in 2020 and set up a National Board for the Assessment of Research Misconduct):
- The institution of a scientific ombudsman at KI tasked with giving researchers and research groups advice and guidance on ethical concerns relating to research:
- An ethics council assigned to promote proactive discussion on complex ethical issues.
- An emphasis in KI’s Strategi 2030 on matters concerning research ethics.
- A stronger emphasis on ethics in programmes and courses for all students, supervisors, researchers and managers.
- A more accessible and anonymous incident reporting system.
KI has taken on board the criticisms that have been made as well as the results of the various investigations and other data and information produced with direct links to the Macchiarini case and its ramifications. The university management, both past and present, has made it absolutely clear that KI must learn from the mistakes made, and been fully aware that the case will need to be discussed for many years to come. A timeline chronicling the sequence of events and the measures taken can be found on the KI website.
At the same time, it must be remembered that the actions of Paolo Macchiarini in no way represent KI as a whole. KI is a university with researchers dedicated to both understanding life and disease and improving human health in Sweden and around the world, and teachers dedicated to transferring their knowledge and skills to the young healthcare professionals of the future.