Jury Hands Life Sentence to “Butcher Surgeon” for Medical Malpractice

A Texan surgeon is going to spend the rest of his life in prison because of his horrific incompetence on the operating table. The almost unbelievable case follows Doctor Christopher Duntsch who managed to maim 32 of his patients. Nicknamed by local newspapers as “Dr. Death,” the criminal conviction shows how a broken system allowed a deranged, drug-addled, and incompetent doctor to harm so many of his patients.

After studying medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Duntsch moved to Dallas where he worked at Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, a $600,000-a-year job that only lasted a couple weeks. After leaving the institute, the deranged doctor moved to Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano. Less than a year into his stint at the prestigious hospital, colleagues begin to describe surgeries gone horrifically wrong. Concerned about excessive blood loss, one surgeon told The Dallas Morning News that he grabbed  Duntsch’s medical instruments to stop him from operating. Another doctor described one surgery as “pathetic on what should have been a fairly easy case.”

The case that finally brought the deadly doctor to the attention of the Texas Medical Board involved Jerry Summers, a childhood friend of Duntsch. According to Summers, the two friends spent the entire night before the surgery doing cocaine together. The next day, Duntsch managed to badly botch a routine cervical fusion on his friend. Texas Medical Board records show that Summers lost almost two liters of blood on the operating table and lost the ability to move his arms and legs because of Duntsch’s incompetence. After the doctor’s negligence caused his best friend to become a quadriplegic, Baylor put the doctor on a brief two-week hiatus and then resigned his contract.  Less than one month later, the doctor managed to botch another routine surgery – this time killing a mother of two.

Baylor Medical finally fired the doctor after the death and he promptly found work at Dallas Medical Center where he harmed three more patients in under a week and was consequently released from his employment. After learning that Duntsch had a history of maiming patients at Baylor, Dallas Medical Center reported him to the Texas Medical Board but not before Duntsch found employment at another Dallas hospital where he botched a surgery so severely that the staff in the operating room “forcibly restrained” the doctor from continuing the surgery. Another surgeon at the hospital reported him to the Texas Medical Board, which finally suspended the doctor’s license.

After losing his license, a media frenzy in Dallas brought out more stories – and subsequently, more lawsuits – against the doctor and the hospitals that enabled his heartless butchery. Assessing the enormity of the doctor’s malpractice, local authorities charged the doctor with criminal charges. Though it is extremely rare for doctor’s malpractice to rise to the level of criminal misconduct, the jury found Dr. Death guilty after deliberating for less than four hours. Duntsch received a life sentence for his crimes, which one maimed patient described as fitting because his victims “[will] have to live the rest of their lives with the pain he caused.”

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