Yulia Tuulik: How Did Paolo Macchiarini’s Patient Die?

Swedish Italian surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini flew around the world in private jets, wooing influential women by feeding them fantasies such as having friendships with the Pope and the erstwhile American President. He claimed he had found an ingenious method to treat throat conditions using plastic tracheas, leading to the death of seven of eight patients he conducted the surgeries on across several countries. Netflix’s ‘Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife’ reveals how most of the victims, including  Russian Yulia Tuulik, were not suffering from life-threatening conditions before his fatal intervention.

Who Was Yulia Tuulik?

Paolo Macchiarini’s involvement in Russia commenced with a regenerative surgery master class, invited by Mikhail Batin, the erstwhile president of the Science for Life Extension Foundation (SLEF) in February 2010. This foundation had a mission to make the “radical extension of life” a national goal in Russia. Subsequently, Paolo collaborated with surgeon Vladimir Parshin at the Boris Petrovsky Research National Center for Surgery in Moscow, where, eight months later, he performed a trachea transplantation.

The success of this procedure gained Paolo significant attention, turning him into a scientific sensation through widespread television coverage. The Science for Life Extension Foundation played a pivotal role in his Russian ventures, facilitating a substantial $2.6 million “mega grant” from the Russian government designed to attract foreign expertise. Additional funding was secured from Kuban State Medical University (KSMU), a reputable medical school in Krasnodar, about 1400 kilometers south of Moscow.

In Krasnodar Regional Hospital No. 1, Paolo conducted four artificial trachea transplantations, contributing to his elevated status in the scientific community. In 2014, his achievements were showcased in a permanent exhibition at the Polytechnic Museum in Moscow, highlighting Russia’s scientific and technological progress. However, Paolo’s reputation took a significant hit in Sweden due to a documentary titled ‘Experimenten’ broadcast in January 2016, questioning the legitimacy of his work.

The docu-series mainly focused on the case of Yulia Tuulik, a Russian patient. Contrary to the portrayal of a life-threatening condition, it was revealed that Yulia had suffered tracheal damage in a car accident but could breathe through a stoma. Paolo and his team had initially celebrated the operation as a medical triumph in a press conference. Unfortunately, her trachea collapsed, leading to an unsuccessful replacement. An email on Netflix’s show from the late Yulia described the rotting of her surgical area after the surgery.

How Did Yulia Tuulik Die?

Yulia had written how the rot had such a pungent smell that “people shudder away.” According to reports, she succumbed to post-surgical complexities in 2014. Not much has been revealed about her personal life on the show or is available in the public domain. Following the broadcast of Experimenten in Sweden and subsequent coverage in the Russian media concerning Paolo, an investigation conducted by the Federal Service for Supervision of Healthcare at the Krasnodar Hospital exposed significant irregularities.

It was disclosed that he had conducted medical procedures without having a valid Russian medical license. Furthermore, he had failed to submit any documentation to the state register regarding the materials used in the creation of the artificial windpipe. This revelation raised serious questions about the legality and transparency of Paolo’s medical activities in Russia, further contributing to the scrutiny and controversy surrounding his professional conduct. The Russian Science Foundation (RSF) terminated his contract on March 30, 2017.

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