A medical student convicted in a 1999 murder with neo-Nazi links has been expelled from Sweden’s leading medical school in a case that sparked debate over whether a killer can become a doctor after having paid his debt to society.
The Karolinska institute, known for awarding the Nobel Prize in medicine, revoked Karl Svensson’s admission to its prestigious medical program this week after an investigation into his background, the university president said Friday.
Svensson, 31, was admitted last fall after his application to the program was approved, President Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson said.
However, the university knew nothing about his dark past until getting two anonymous tips that Svensson’s original identity was Hampus Hellekant, an alleged neo-Nazi sympathizer who had served seven years in prison for the murder of a labor union activist, Wallberg-Henriksson said.
He was convicted along with two other men in 2000 in the fatal shooting of a member of a far-left union, Bjorn Soderberg. Prosecutors said the killing was revenge for Soderberg’s public denouncement of a co-worker who belonged to a neo-Nazi organization.
“He had been enrolled for four months when this was revealed,” she said.
Legal framework unclear
The discovery put Karolinska in a difficult position because the legal framework is unclear on “whether you should be able to receive a doctor’s education with this type of background,” she said.
In the end, Karolinska never had to address Svensson’s criminal record because the background check found irregularities in the high school grades he submitted with his application, which was grounds to expel him.
The case triggered an emotional debate among faculty and students at the Karolinska institute. After local media started reporting on the case, Svensson told his 130 classmates about his background, Wallberg-Henriksson said.
“He said he was very interested in becoming a doctor and was determined to pursue the education and that he was not the same person today as he was then,” she said.
“There was a lot of discussion. The course was divided in two camps. One camp thought he had paid for his crime, others felt uncomfortable,” she said.
Mixed feelings among students
Karolinska students said that there had been mixed feelings about Svensson on campus.
“We talked about it when it emerged and it was in the paper,” said Elin, 21, a biomedicine student who did not want her last name used because the topic was sensitive on campus.
“People felt it was strange that he should be allowed to become a doctor,” she said. “On the other hand, people change. Maybe he’s become a better person.”
Wallberg-Henriksson said Svensson’s only response to the expulsion was a letter to Karolinska in which he said he was dropping out of the program.
Svensson could not be reached for comment.
The National Agency for Services to Universities and University Colleges filed a police complaint in the case on Thursday. Stockholm police said Friday they had received the complaint and were likely to start a forgery investigation next week.
Education Minister Lars Leijonborg said in a statement on Friday that Svensson’s case had prompted his ministry to “discuss whether there is a need to change the regulations surrounding students who have committed crimes.”