Turbulent days: Looking forward not forgetting the past

Published: 2016-09-07

The last couple days have been extremely turbulent for Karolinska Institutet. I am astonished and very troubled by the profound criticism from the external investigator Sten Heckscher and the team he has assembled, on how KI has handled the Macchiarini case. Like many others, I had realized that criticism will be raised against processes, decisions and lack of decisions within our university but I did not foresee the magnitude and scope of the criticism.

To me, it is now evident that what has happened cannot entirely be blamed on a single or a few incidents. Rather it is repeated failure to comply with fundamental rules and regulations, and KI as an administrative authority failed to react to and stop this. This has occurred despite repeated warning signs and well documented warnings from whistle blowers and others. This led to a situation where severe suffering has been caused to individuals. While the Macchiarini case is exceptional in many ways, it was made possible through a lack of control.

There is no contradiction between an ethical and moral approach and academic freedom, or being an internationally renowned medical university. In this, the university administration has an important role in facilitating that our core activities are provided with systems that facilitate compliance with rules and regulations.
When individuals fail in their profession role, we must provide supporting administrative control system. We must have a culture that welcomes warning signals and a leadership that swiftly acts upon them.

The Heckscher investigation is a starting point. The same goes for the recent Sifo reputation poll, in which the Swedish public gave us their verdict: their trust in us has been severely damaged. In the poll KI fell from fourth to twelfth place.

During the spring we have initiated several efforts to strengthened control. This work will now continue and intensify based on the findings and recommendations laid out in the Heckscher report. The KI board has given me the responsibility to present a plan for action to the next meeting board meeting, 10 October.

We have a huge learning task and extensive work ahead of us. We must never compromise ethical principles. There is no quick fix. It will take hard and persistent work. And each and every one of us at Karolinska Institutet must be deeply involved.

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