Paolo Macchiarini’s actions not only robbed innocent individuals of their lives but also shattered families, leaving lasting heartbreaks that endure through the years. The impact of his deceptive medical practices is captured in Peacock’s documentary, ‘Dr. Death: Cutthroat Conman,’ where stories unfold of loved ones being taken away. Among these narratives is that of Merhawit-Tesfaslase, the wife of Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene. Andemariam was the first person to receive a synthetic tracheal implant from Macchiarini at the Karolinska Institute. The anguish and devastation experienced by these families underscore the grave consequences of Macchiarini’s actions.
Who is Merhawit-Tesfaslase?
Merhawit, born in 1984 in Eritrea, was pursuing a degree in economics at the University of Asmara when she crossed paths with Beyene. After a brief courtship, they decided to embark on a life together, getting married on January 12, 2008. Following tradition, Merhawit assumed the responsibilities of managing the household, caring for their children, and overseeing the estate while Beyene pursued his career. As he completed his master’s in Earth Science at the University of Iceland, the couple maintained a connection through daily Skype conversations. However, in 2009, Merhawit grew alarmed when several days passed without communication.
Upon investigation, she discovered that Beyene had been unconscious in the hospital for six days and was diagnosed with cancer. After undergoing surgery, Beyene visited Merhawit in Eritrea during the summer of 2010. During this time, he played with their oldest son, displaying a semblance of normalcy. Subsequently, Beyene returned to Iceland to complete his studies. Initially given a prognosis of 2-3 years with his disease in 2009, Beyene actively sought alternative remedies. It was during this period that Beyene’s treating doctor reached out to Paolo Macchiarini, who was then associated with the Karolinska Institute.
In 2011, Macchiarini presented Beyene with a promising solution—a synthetic tracheal implant that held the potential to save his life. Merhawit claims that Macchiarini failed to offer alternative medical options to Beyene, assuring him that the procedure would grant him additional years to spend with his children. Following the operation, Beyene faced the challenge of being unable to return to Eritrea due to the lack of specialized medical care in the country. In November 2011, Merhawit made the journey to Iceland with their two sons, Brook and Nahom, marking the first time Beyene had the opportunity to see his younger son.
Settling in Iceland, the family secured a small rented apartment in Kópavogur. This period proved to be exceptionally challenging for Merhawit, as she grappled with the unfamiliar language and culture, feeling isolated and struggling to communicate. While she found support in a priest at the Red Cross, the absence of a larger community compounded the difficulty. The ensuing years brought a mix of ups and downs, with the challenges intensifying in 2013 as Beyene’s health deteriorated significantly. Beyene passed away at the Karolinska Institute on January 30, 2014, with Merhawit by his side during his final moments.
Where is Merhawit-Tesfaslase Now?
After Andemariam Beyene’s funeral in Eritrea, Merhawit made a courageous decision to leave the country, prompted by the declining economic conditions. Determined to forge a new path, she embarked on a journey to Sweden, seeking a fresh start for herself and her three children. However, Merhawit found herself in a foreign country with three children, including a newborn son named Simon, born just six weeks before Beyene’s demise.
Though she received some financial assistance from Eritrea and Ethiopia to purchase essentials, she faced the painful task of navigating life in Iceland, a place filled with memories of Beyene. Merhawit aspires to complete her studies in economics, a goal that proves challenging as she juggles a full-time role as a primary teacher while raising her three children. The two eldest children fondly remember their father, keeping his memory alive through daily conversations.
Despite the impact of the tragic events surrounding Beyene’s treatment at the Karolinska Institute, Merhawit has not received even a simple apology, let alone any form of monetary compensation. Acknowledging the financial strain on her and her sons, she expresses the hope for some assistance, but progress on that front has been elusive. The lack of recognition and support only adds to the challenges faced by Merhawit as she endeavors to build a stable future for her family.