To Swedish medical newspaper ”Dagens Medicin” Richard Horton, editor in Chief of The Lancet , says that it is essential not to cast judgment too soon on Paolo Macchiarini. The venerable journal waits for an official verdict from the new investigators of scientific fraud.
Innocent until proven guilty, is the principle, which is all well. But you may ask how The Lancet could publish such controversial articles in the first place. How could the misleading information in the text pass by the reviewers? Is peer review like post-modern text analysis, where only the words on the page count, and nothing from the real world outside should interfere?
I know personally some of the investigative reporters who worked on the case already more than six months ago. They asked me if the reviewers who approved of the manuscripts didn’t have access to the medical records of the patients. Since I work with science issues they supposed I would know. I said I’m not sure, but it seems like they don’t since the two sources say radically different things.
Already back then a lot of people were aware of the fact that when the Lancet article said ”the patient is fine”, the medical record said ”he’s dying” – to put it bluntly.
So the reporter in question looked at me, mouth agape, and said ”What?!” For someone working professionally with documentary facts it seemed unbelievable that the scientific fact is what the doctor chooses to present with no corroborating record .
The Macchiarini-transplants seemed to good to be true. Shouldn’t they have been treated accordingly? You know ”if something seems to good to be true, it probably is” is an age old antidote against con men.
Here is a good recap of the Macchiarini-story for a Canadian audience. We are still waiting for the UK media to wake up. The latest headline on the topic in The Guardian was How laboratory-grown organs will transform our lives. Transform lives, indeed.