The second season of Dr. Death begins as a whirlwind romance. Benita Alexander (Mandy Moore) is a producer with NBC News, working on a story about Dr. Paolo Macchiarini (Édgar Ramírez), a handsome and charismatic thoracic surgeon who has pioneered a groundbreaking new synthetic organ transplant procedure. Benita becomes completely enamored with the Italian doctor, and despite it crossing a professional line, the journalist begins a relationship with her subject.
But the more time Benita spends in Paolo’s world, the less things add up, from his promises to marry her, to the research behind his medical work. As the story flits from the United States to Spain, Sweden, and Russia, it is revealed that Dr. Paolo Macchiarini’s entire career and persona are built on lies.
“I was excited to demonstrate how institutional flaws stretch around the globe,” said executive producer Ashley Michel Hoban. “We also have a riveting love story, which adds a new layer of complexity… The character truly evolved with Mandy. She brings an incredible warmth onscreen, along with a sharp intellect and strong sense of conviction.”
The plot of Dr. Death Season 2 is based on the real-life Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who actually did have an affair with an NBC producer named Benita Alexander while she was working on a Dateline story about him. In reality, he was married when that relationship began—but that was only one of his deceptions. Macchiarini also claimed to be a surgeon to the stars, and the personal surgeon of the Pope himself.
Following the suspicious deaths of several of his patients, an investigation was carried outi into the doctor’s methods and research practices: Macchiarini was eventually found to be guilty of research fraud and forging documents, and was investigated for medical manslaughter but never tried, although he was deemed to have acted “without due care.”
While Dr. Death is a dramatized account of the story, it has been explored in multiple documentaries, including He Lied About Everything, Benita Alexander’s 2018 film about her experiences, and the Netflix documentary Bad Surgeon: Love Under the Knife. The true crime podcast Dr. Death, on which the Peacock drama is based, also ran a season on Macchiarini.
And for fans of this season of Dr. Death who are eager to learn more, Peacock has also produced the new documentary Dr. Death: Cutthroat Conman as a companion piece to the series.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.