Anesthesiologist joins the 100-retraction club

via Wikipedia

Until this year, only one researcher — Yoshitaka Fujii — had eclipsed the century mark for retractions. But Fujii can no longer claim dibs on being the only scientist to lose three digits worth of papers. 

Joachim Boldt, a fellow anesthesiologist fraudster, recently notched three more retractions, bringing his tally, by our count, to an even 100

Boldt was one of Europe’s leading anesthesiologists for decades. A critical care specialist, he was internationally known for his work on the use of substances called volume expanders that are used during surgery to preserve blood pressure.  That fame was replaced in the early part of the last decade by questions about his work, and findings of misconduct.

The new retractions involve papers Boldt published three decades ago — in 1989 and 1990 — in Der Anesthetist, a German-language anesthesiology journal in the Springer stable. Boldt’s misconduct, which was exposed a decade ago by Steven Shafer, then editor of Anesthesia & Analgesia, is believed to have put at risk the lives of potentially millions of patients by overstating the safety and effectiveness of certain volume expanders. 

The new notices do not refer to the previous findings of misconduct against Boldt. Bernhard Zwissler, the editor in chief of the journal, told Retraction Watch that the retractions are based on allegations first made in 2018 about

discrepancies in the data between the three article published in „Der Anaestehsist“ and doctorate theses submitted at the University of Giessen earlier.  We have immediately asked the University of Giessen to examine this accusation. It took until 29th of may 2019 for the University of Giessen to come up with a result of this internal review process, after which we decided to retract the papers, which we did.

Here’s the notice for “The hemodynamic effects of various hydroxyethyl starch solutions in heart surgery patients,” courtesy of Google Translate: 

The editors of Der Anaesthesist and Springer Medizin Verlag hereby withdraw the article [1] based on an investigation by the Justus Liebig University Gießen with regard to falsified data and the subsequent recommendation.

The correspondence author of the article J. Boldt did not react to the contact of the editors and the publisher in this matter. The other authors B. Zickmann, A. Thiel, C. Herold, F. Dapper and G. Hempelmann could no longer be found due to the time difference.

(We took this rough translation to mean time passed, not time zones.)

Also retracted are “Homologous fresh frozen plasma in heart surgery. Myth or necessity” from 1989 — we’ll take the odds on “myth” for the moment — and “Hyperosmolarer Volumenersatz in der Herzchirurgie,” which appeared in 1990. 

The three papers have been cited a total of 33 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, with the last such citation in 2013.

Three decades is a long time from publication to retraction. But it is not a record. That belongs to a paper — a hoax, it turns out — first published in 1923 and retracted in 2003.

Update, 1640 UTC, 1/24/20: This post has been updated to reflect new information from the journal editor, Bernhard Zwissler. For our initial post, we attempted to contact Ines Wolff, who was listed as the contact person for the retraction notices. However, Wolff — who replied after our post went live but could not provide any additional information — is the publisher, not the editor, of the journal. We apologize for the error.

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