Where is Paolo Macchiarini now? Netflix's Bad Surgeon tells of his botched surgeries and secret family

He was responsible for unbelievable tragedy

 Paolo Macchiarini and Benita Alexander
(Image credit: Netflix/Future)

Where is Paolo Macchiarini now? Netflix documentary Bad Surgeon: Love Under The Knife tells the tragic tale lives he destroyed, and the secret family he kept hidden.

Netflix's latest true-crime documentary tells the story of Swiss surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, whose innovative regenerative surgeries led to him being hailed a super surgeon. However, when his patients kept dying, whistle blowers stepped in to stop the man they later revealed to be a fraud and a fantasist. The three-part docuseries features not only those responsible for exposing Macchiarini, but the families of his victims, and his former fiancée who found out his secret hidden family just before they were set to wed. 

Elsewhere on Netflix, viewers were asking about Griselda Blanco's children now, and what happened to her three husbands, after tuning into true-crime dramatisation, Griselda. Recent Channel 4 documentary Murdered: The Baby on the Beach revisits the Kerry babies case and left viewers wondering about the whereabouts of Joanne Hayes now - the woman wrongly accused of murder. The same question is now being asked about Paolo Macchiarini - we reveal what happened once his crimes were exposed, and where he is now.

Where is Paolo Macchiarini now?

Paolo Macchiarini is currently in prison serving 2 1/2 years jail sentence for causing the death of three people between 2011 and 2014, as per a report by Associated Press. He had initially been given a suspended sentence in June 2022 - meaning he would serve no jail time - but a Swedish appeals court increased his sentence in June 2023.

Reuters report that last year Macchiarini was found not guilty of aggravated assault in three cases of death, and guilty of causing grievous bodily harm in a fourth case. The three acquittal verdicts have since been struck down, with the Swedish appeals court saying 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 report goes on to detail that Macchiarini denied any criminal wrongdoing and said he felt "imprisoned", having already lost his job and career. He also said that he was disappointed with the outcome of the trial, and that he would appeal it.

According to Associated Press, Macchiarini was fired from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute - a research-led medical university - in 2016 for breaching medical ethics after being accused of falsifying his resume and misrepresenting his work.

Also in 2016, the Swedish government dismissed the board of the Karolinska Institute following an investigation that found it was negligent when hiring Macchiarini and letting him operate on patients (per Reuters).

What did Paolo Macchiarini do?

Paolo Macchiarini was a celebrated thoracic surgeon, who became famous for a groundbreaking transplant operation involving plastic windpipes. He claimed to have created artificial airways that didn't require patients to take immunosuppressant drugs in order to prevent their bodies from rejecting the transplants.

Macchiarini became well known in 2008 for creating such a transplant for a woman named Claudia Castillo, who suffered from tuberculosis-damaged airways. According to the Guardian, it is claimed he did this by taking windpipe cells from a deceased donor, and mixing them with stem cells from Castillo’s bone marrow. Macchiarini claimed that because the artificial organ was built from Castillo’s own cells, she wouldn't require lifelong immunosuppressant drugs to prevent her body from rejecting it.

By 2011, he was working at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet, reinventing his technique and making the front cover of the New York Times. However, as the Netflix documentary details, many of the patients treated by Macchiarini began dying, with Claudia Castillo being one of the only survivors known to be doing well. 

Production still image of a trachea from Bad Surgeon: Love Under The Knife

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Guardian article goes on to detail the claims that tracheal procedures had not been insufficiently tested on animals and that a full risk assessment had not been undertaken, with no government permits for the plastic windpipes, stem cells, and chemical growth factors used for the operations issued. 

It is alleged that Macchiarini's celebrity status allowed him to avoid the usual rigorous safety procedures such a landmark medical intervention would be subject to. He was bringing in funding for institutes for whom he worked, and therefore even managed to carry on treating patients using the loophole that they were dying, it was claimed. In the case that no other treatment options are available, experimental options could be used as a last resort.

The case made against Macchiarini was that he falsified results and misled hospital authorities regarding the health of those receiving the experimental procedures and, as detailed in Netflix's Bad Surgeon, the allegations landed him in Swedish appeals court, where he was charged with aggravated assault and bodily harm against his former patients. 

Paolo Macchiarini and Benita Alexander

(Image credit: Netflix)

Was Paolo Macchiarini married?

Paolo Macchiarini was married, but the documentary also exposes that at the height of his fame, he became engaged to another woman who it is alleged knew nothing of his existing wife.

NBC News Producer Benita Alexander met Macchiarini while making a documentary about him at the height of his success, in 2013. Despite professional misgivings relating to beginning a relationship with the subject of her documentary, Benita continued to meet Macchiarini for lunches and once filming was over, they were officially a couple.

By 2015, they planned to marry, with a date set for July 11 that year. Macchiarini is said to have told Benita he had previously treated the Pope and planned to visit him to discuss the pair of them being divorced but still hoping for a Catholic wedding. He returned with the news that not only had the Pope consented to the marriage, but had also agreed to officiate. 

According to Vanity Fair, Macchiarini told his bride-to-be that guests planning to attend the nuptials included Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Nicolas Sarkozy. He also told her Andrea Bocelli would be singing, and Florence’s three Michelin starred Enoteca Pinchiorri, would be responsible for the catering.

A friend then emailed Benita with an article covering travels the Pope would be undertaking, which coincided with when he should be officiating her wedding. She hired a private investigator who found all the details Macchhiarini is said to have provided about the wedding were fabricated. He was also found to be still married to his wife of nearly 30 years at the time, Emanuela Pecchia - they had two young children together.

Benita said of the experience "This was not some guy I picked up in a bar. This was a renowned, accomplished, established surgeon whom we had followed all over the world." She added " The very prospect of him making all of this stuff up, even as I described it to friends as surreal and overwhelming, seemed too ridiculous to give it any credence. Why would he risk his reputation by doing that? What reason could he possibly have to lie to me, someone he obviously loved, in that manner?"

Paolo Macchiarini

(Image credit: Netflix)

Is Paolo Macchiarini still married?

Reports suggest Paolo Macchiarini is no longer married to his first wife, but these remain unconfirmed.

The documentary also covers another affair Macchiarini is said to have had with a woman named Ana Paula Bernardes. The pair met in 2010 when Macchiarini operated on her son, Danilo. He suffered complications and sadly passed away shortly after the surgery. Macchiarini maintained contact with Bernardes, eventually beginning a relationship with her.

The pair later had a daughter together, but the relationship ended in 2016,when Bernardes found out that Macchiarini had also duped Benita Alexander and discovered the pair's failed marriage plans. She also found out at the same time that he was already married, and left with their daughter. 

We've also looked into the whereabouts of Vjeran Tomic now, the so-called 'Spiderman' of Paris. We've also looked at Amber Heard and Johnny Depp now, as the pair have kept a low profile since their infamous court case. And if you love apocalyptic thrillers you'll wonder what is Leave the World Behind based on?

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.