Dr Macchiarini was the celebrity surgeon who fooled almost everyone.

In 2008, Paolo Macchiarini was considered a miracle man.

The thoracic surgeon, who specialised in diseases and injuries to the structures inside the chest, was a legend in his field, considered the doer of the impossible with his groundbreaking operations using regenerative medicine.

But after a fall from grace, the superstar surgeon was revealed to be not a miracle worker, but a con artist who fooled the medical world.

His criminal story is being told in a new season of Dr Death, starring Édgar Ramírez (Stan Original Series Wolf Like Me) and American actress and singer-songwriter Mandy Moore (This Is Us, A Walk To Remember).

Watch the full trailer for Dr Death on Stan here: 

Macchiarini rose to fame back in 2008, when he created a transplantable windpipe for a young mother named Claudia Castillo. He stripped away the cells of a windpipe chemically from a deceased donor, and then seeded the organ with stem cells taken from Castillo's bone marrow, reports The Guardian.

Castillo was reportedly back on her feet and playing with her children in no time following the procedure, which seemed to be a genuine medical miracle and an incredible step forward in the field of regenerative medicine. 

But while media reports declared Macchiarini's work a huge success, his patient was quietly facing severe complications behind the scenes.

By 2011, Macchiarini was working in Sweden at one of the world's most respected medical universities, the Karolinska Institute (it's where professors annually select the winner of the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine).


In that time, he reconfigured his invention so that instead of stripping cells from donor organs, he had plastic scaffolds made to order. These synthetic windpipes, lined with the patient's stem cells, could help them replicate a healthy version of a failing organ – or so he claimed.

His first surgery using one of these plastic windpipes landed him on the front page of New York Times.

It's also how investigative journalist Benita Alexander (played by Moore in Stan's series) first heard of him.

Alexander was a successful, award-winning producer for NBC News, working on a Meredith Viera special about Macchiarini when they met for the first time in 2013. 

Édgar Ramírez and Mandy Moore in Dr. Death. Image: Stan.


Alexander was tasked with covering the surgeon's apparent pioneering work, but as Macchiarini helped her to cope following the death of her husband, she began to fall in love with him. He was a romantic who exposed her to a "glamorous, almost celebrity lifestyle", according to ABC News.

The pair became engaged on Christmas in 2013, not long after meeting, and planned to wed in Italy, where the doctor said Pope Francis himself would marry them. Their celebrity guest list included the Obamas and Elton John. 

Paolo Macchiarini proposed to Benita Alexander on Christmas in 2013. Image: ABC.


It wasn't until Alexander was tipped off by a colleague that Pope Francis was not scheduled to be in Italy on the day of their wedding that she began to question Macchiarini's claims.

The journalist hired a private investigator, who uncovered the incredible truth: the charming doctor was still married – not divorced, as he had told her.

After their engagement was upended in 2015, Alexander's concerns about Macchiarini's professional practices grew, and she contacted the Karolinska Institute to let them know. At the same time, some of Macchiarini's colleagues had begun having their own reservations about his surgeries, which seemed to do more harm than good.

Because in truth, not much had been done to ensure his invention actually worked. He sidestepped proper risk assessments and he never sought government permits for his plastic windpipes, the stem cells or the "growth factor" chemicals he used.

He was effectively experimenting on his patients.

At first, the Karolinska Institute defended their star doctor, citing "compassionate use" – Macchiarini was not doing research, the university claimed, but caring for his patients and using new treatments as a last resort.


When the institute finally investigated – after many years of continuing to throw their unquestioning support behind Macchiarini – they found he had, in fact, committed misconduct.

"Miracle Man" Paolo Macchiarini. Image: Getty.

His once-impeccable reputation was in tatters, Macchiarini was fired in 2016.

That same year, it was revealed most of the 17 patients he's treated with his "miracle" windpipes had died, including the patient who landed him on the front page of the New York Times and skyrocketed his career.


Macchiarini's regenerative windpipes were not the life-saving miracles he'd led the world to believe through falsified research, press interviews and scientific articles.

Macchiarini not only denied he was conducting experiments on his patients — it also turned out he was operating on people who didn't necessarily need it.

More than a decade after he translated his first synthetic trachea into a patient, Macchiarini was sentenced to two years in prison by a Swedish court. 

The sentencing only accounted for three of the patients that were treated at Karolinska. Other patients were treated at hospitals in Barcelona, Florence, London, Moscow, Krasnodar, Chicago and Peoria, none of which have conducted independent inquiries into Macchiarini's actions.

In the second season of Dr Death, we watch the unravelling of Macchiarini's life through the eyes of the woman who loved him, and the medical peers who once revered him – and see just how far Macchiarini was prepared to go to protect his lies.

Dr. Death also stars Luke Kirby (No Man of God, Take This Waltz), Ashley Madekwe (The Strays) and Gustaf Hammarsten (Bruno).

The brand new season of Dr. Death premieres December 22, same day as the US, only on Stan.

Feature Image: Stan.

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