Icelandic Doctors Comment on Trachea Implants Skip to content

Icelandic Doctors Comment on Trachea Implants

Chief Medical Officer of Iceland Birgir Jakobsson, who was director of Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm from 2007 to 2014, has commented on a trachea implant which was carried out at the hospital by Italian surgeon Paolo Macchiarini in June 2011 and is now being investigated along with seven other operations.

Tómas and Óskar Einarsson, who were among 28 authors of an article about Beyene’s operation in The Lancet, written four months after the operation, have released a statement.

“It was clear to everyone that this was an experimental operation for an individual who didn’t have a choice,” Birgir told Vísir of the operation on Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene, who became the first person in the world to receive a synthetic trachea. The operation was described as successful but in January 2014 Beyene died.

“I understood that he was given at least three years to live afterwards,” Birgir added. Beyene suffered from cancer and doctors estimated that he only had a few more months to live. Beyene, from Eritrea, studied in Iceland at the time of the operation.

Icelandic surgeon Tómas Guðbjartsson took part in the operation.

“[Beyene’s condition] was evaluated and an agreement was made between Karolinska and [Landspítali National University Hospital in Iceland] … to my knowledge with the patient’s full approval,” Birgir continued.

“University hospitals have this role [of carrying out experimental operations] and it’s important to thoroughly follow up on them and if they don’t work out as planned they must be stopped, which is what we did at the hospital,” Birgir maintained.

“However, Karolinska Institute continued some cooperation with Macchiarini and that is what is causing these problems now,” Birgir stated. He was not director of Karolinska Institute, a different institution which cooperates closely with Karolinska University Hospital.

“The reproach is that [Macchiarini] published articles after these operations which he carried out implying that everything had been successful,” Birgir concluded.

Following Uppdrag granskning’s coverage of the story yesterday, Tómas and Óskar state that in the article in The Lancet they had primarily described the patient’s condition before the operation.

At the time they had concluded, after receiving consultation by other physicians, that it would be impossible to remove Beyene’s tumor and that he only had a few months to live.

Beyene had requested that they seek alternative treatment, which is why they contacted Karolinska where the experimental operation was recommended. Tómas was asked to take part in the operation because he has already performed a large operation on the patient.

Tómas and Óskar state that they have assisted both parties in the investigation and provided them with information. As the investigation has yet to be concluded, they state that they cannot comment on it in further detail for the time being.

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