Let­ters from

The New York Review of Books - - Contents -

Peter An­dréas­son, Carl El­liott, Jef­frey Bub, and David Z Al­bert

To the Edi­tors:

In the April 5 is­sue of The New York Re­view, you pub­lished an ar­ti­cle en­ti­tled “Knifed with a Smile.” I would like to make a few com­ments re­gard­ing that text:

1. The text states that none of the whistle­blow­ers re­call re­ceiv­ing an apol­ogy from Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet (KI). That could very well be the case; how­ever, it is an ir­refutable fact that on De­cem­ber 20, 2016, KI pub­lished a pub­lic apol­ogy in one of the most widely dis­trib­uted and read Op-Ed pages of all the Swedish dailies, Da­gens Ny­heter: “That the whistle­blow­ers who raised the alarm about Paolo Mac­chiarini’s ac­tiv­i­ties were not lis­tened to is un­ac­cept­able, and here, in this ar­ti­cle, KI pub­licly apol­o­gizes to the whistle­blow­ers.” (Text in Swedish: “Att de vis­sel­blåsare som lar­made om Paolo Mac­chiari­nis verk­samhet inte blev hörda är oac­cept­abelt och här ber KI of­fentligt vis­sel­blåsarna om ursäkt för det.”) This in­for­ma­tion was sent to Pro­fes­sor El­liott on Oc­to­ber 31, 2017.

2. Fur­ther­more, the ar­ti­cle im­plies that KI is ac­tively try­ing to for­get or hide the Paolo Mac­chiarini case. This is sim­ply not cor­rect. There is an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sci­en­tific mis­con­duct re­gard­ing pub­li­ca­tions in which Paolo Mac­chiarini is named as the prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor. A de­ci­sion by Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet’s vice-chan­cel­lor re­gard­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tion will come later this spring. Dur­ing the past two years, Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet has also im­ple­mented new and re­vised rou­tines and guide­lines and re­in­forced su­per­vi­sion as a di­rect con­se­quence of this case—and there are more changes yet to come.

3. Fi­nally, Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet has made a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort to cre­ate and main­tain to­tal trans­parency through­out the process and case re­gard­ing Paolo Mac­chiarini and his in­volve­ment with KI. This in­cludes openly re­fer­ring to and cit­ing crit­i­cism against KI. Please take a look at our web­site for more de­tails: ki.se/en/news/themac­chiarini-case-time­line.

Peter An­dréas­son Chief Press Of­fi­cer Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet Stock­holm

Carl El­liott replies:

Peter An­dréas­son’s let­ter should give no one any con­fi­dence that the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute has learned from the Mac­chiarini scan­dal. It is true that Karin Dahlman-Wright, the pro-vice-chan­cel­lor of the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute, in­formed me of an ar­ti­cle in Da­gens Ny­heter on De­cem­ber 20, 2016, which in­cluded a brief state­ment of apol­ogy to “the whistle­blow­ers.” How­ever, the sup­posed apol­ogy seemed al­most laugh­ably in­ad­e­quate. It con­cerned a sin­gle find­ing of re­search mis­con­duct by Mac­chiarini in an ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and the mis­con­duct had con­cerned tis­sue engi­neer­ing in rats. Yet by the time the ar­ti­cle ap­peared, Mac­chiarini had been charged with man­slaugh­ter; the vicechan­cel­lor of the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute had re­signed in dis­grace; an ex­ter­nal re­view had iden­ti­fied re­search mis­con­duct in six pub­lished papers by Mac­chiarini; and at least five pa­tients who had got­ten syn­thetic tra­chea im­plants from Mac­chiarini were dead. In the ar­ti­cle cited, Dahlman-Wright ad­dressed only the sin­gle in­stance of re­search mis­con­duct, not the suf­fer­ing in­flicted on pa­tients. She did not apol­o­gize for the fact that the lead­ers of the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute and the Karolin­ska Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal had pro­tected Mac­chiarini. She failed to men­tion that in­sti­tu­tional lead­ers had re­ported the whistle­blow­ers to the po­lice and threat­ened to fire them. In fact, she did not even do the whistle­blow­ers the cour­tesy of men­tion­ing their names. Nei­ther does An­dréas­son. For the record, the whistle­blow­ers are Matthias Cor­bas­cio, Thomas Fux, Kar­lHen­rik Grin­nemo, and Os­car Si­mon­son. When I fol­lowed up by e-mail to Dahlman-Wright, I ques­tioned the ef­fec­tive­ness of an apol­ogy that the whistle­blow­ers them­selves did not con­sider suf­fi­cient. I also pointed out that they had been threat­ened with dis­missal and re­ported to the po­lice. In re­sponse, Dahlman-Wright re­ferred me again to the ar­ti­cle in Da­gens Ny­heter and said my ques­tions about the threats should be directed to the Karolin­ska Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal. A spokesper­son for the hos­pi­tal replied that it had no plans to apol­o­gize. When I put the same ques­tions to the newly ap­pointed vice-chan­cel­lor, Ole Pet­ter Ot­tersen, he de­clined to answer and re­ferred me back to the state­ment by Dahlman-Wright.

For years of­fi­cials at the Karolin­ska In­sti­tute in­sisted that the whistle­blow­ers were wrong and that we should be­lieve the ad­min­is­tra­tion in­stead. Many did, and the re­sults were dis­as­trous. Now Karolin­ska In­sti­tute of­fi­cials are again in­sist­ing that the whistle­blow­ers are wrong and that true re­form is un­der­way. Who should we be­lieve this time?

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