Medical student expelled after hiding murderous past
Saturday 26 January 2008
One of the world's leading medical Universities has thrown out a first year student after it was revealed that he was a convicted murderer and Nazi sympathiser, who changed his name and forged high school certificates in order to gain admittance.
Karl Helge Hampus Svensson's criminal record first came to light in September 2007, when the Karolinska Institute – famous for selecting the Nobel Prize winners for medicine - received two anonymous tip-offs. However, it was only this week that the University was finally able to expel him, after discovering that Svensson also appears to have forged his high-school diploma.
Ironically, it was the name-change that enabled him to shrug off his criminal convictions when granted parole in February 2007 – swapping his original name of Mr Hellekat to that of Mr Svensson – that finally caught up with him.
When Sweden's National Agency For Services to Universities and University Colleges (VHS) examined his application documents, they spotted a glaring error - his 1995 high-school diploma bore the name 'Svensson', a title which he did not adopt until more than eleven years later. The VHS has since reported the student to the police, and the The 31 year old's previous port of call, prior to his interview at the prestigious institute was a maximum security prison – where he spent 6 and a half years. In 1999 Mr Svensson was sentenced to 11 years in prison after shooting Bjorn Soderberg, who had complained about the Neo-Nazi beliefs of a co-worker.
Luckily for Mr Svensson, neither of the members of staff interviewing him asked how he had spent the past few years. As Swedish law forbids Universities from carrying out criminal records checks on potential students, there was nothing to prevent him from enrolling alongside his fresh-faced peers, and beginning to train as a doctor.
However, shortly after the start of term two hand-written, unsigned letters were delivered to the University, revealing the truth about Mr Svensson's criminal past.
"We didn't find out he was a criminal until he had already been admitted as a medical student, but when we found out from the police that the claims were true, we faced a massive ethical dilemma. Could we really send him out to hospitals?" said Ms Wallberg-Henrikkson, Vice Chancellor of the Institute.
At this point, there was no legal way in which the Institute could expel Mr Svensson, as Ms Wallberg-Henrikkson explains: "It is a big black hole in the government legislation. While there is legislation forbidding people who have carried out some crimes from practising medicine, there is no law governing medical students. People with criminal convictions can study medicine."
Faced with the prospect of sending Mr Svensson on clinical rotations to hospitals around the region, the Directors of the Institute held a series of meetings with high-level officials in Sweden's Health and Education Ministries.
It was when considering the legal and ethical questions raised by these discussions that Mr Svensson's application documentation was scrutinised more closely, and the suspected forgery was revealed.
While this situation has now been resolved, the Vice-Chancellor of the Karolinska Institute believes the Svensson case highlights the need for urgent revision of the legislation governing both the practice of Sweden's medical students, and the disclosure of criminal records.
"The Institute has a big ethnic mix, and having a student here who had been convicted of a 'hate' crime did put them at risk. The government needs to re-consider some of this legislation. "
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