How "Dr. Death's" Career Exposed Negligence in the Medical Community

Patrick C. Barry, Esq.

When suffering a specific injury or illness, patients often research online to find a reputable medical expert who can effectively treat their ailments. According to a report released by ProPublica, however, fake Internet reviews and a carefully crafted CV led patients straight into the sociopathic arms of Texas doctor Christopher Duntsch. The story of his continued surgical practice is so horrifying, that “D” magazine, a Dallas monthly, dubbed him “Dr. Death.”

Duntsch only practiced as a neurosurgeon in Dallas for 2 years before his arrest. However, during that time, 33 of his 37 patients suffered severe injuries and post-surgery complications. In the article, author Laura Beil states, “Some had permanent nerve damage. Several woke up from surgery unable to move from the neck down or feel one side of their bodies. Two died in the hospital, including a 55-year-old school teacher undergoing what was supposed to be a straightforward surgery.”

When patients seek medical care, it’s with the inherent hope that their doctors and surgeons have their best interests at heart. Any person going under the knife must confront understandable terror by staunchly believing they are incapable and compassionate hands. After all, surgery is often necessary in sustaining a patient’s health and quality of life. When a patient wakes to life-altering medical complications caused by negligence, their surgeon and the hospital need to be held legally and financially accountable.

Despite a remarkably unethical surgical track record, Duntsch was continually able to find work at various Dallas hospitals because neurosurgeons are worth millions in hospital revenue. As soon as each hospital realized they hired a legal liability, they chose to let him resign with his reputation intact to avoid negative media exposure. In fact, many facilities didn’t even report Duntsch to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the article, Kay Van Way, an attorney who represented 14 of Duntsch’s victims, commented, “It seems to be the custom and practice. Kick the can down the road and protect yourself first, and protect the doctor second and make it somebody else’s problem.” When someone finally reported the wayward doctor, the state medical board spent another year investigating the case to determine if Duntsch’s license should be revoked. During this time, Duntsch was allowed to keep operating on patients.

Many of Duntsch’s patients tried to sue him for medical malpractice, but due to “tort reform” laws passed in 2003, attorneys were hesitant about taking the case. In fact, according to the article, “Since Texas enacted tort reform in 2003, reducing the amount of damages plaintiffs could win, the number of malpractice payouts per year has dropped by more than half.”

In 2015, Duntsch was finally arrested and ultimately tried by the criminal justice system for one count of injury to an elderly person and five counts of assault to various patients. At present, he is currently the first and only doctor to be sentenced to life imprisonment. In the aftermath of the court case, Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Martin declared, “The medical community system has a problem. But we were able to solve it in the criminal courthouse.”

While the case of “Dr. Death” has been concluded, it doesn’t change the fact that numerous patients have had their lives irrevocably altered by the actions of one man and the overall failure of the medical community to weed out incompetent providers.

Retain Legal Representation & Fight for Justice

We never want anyone to feel helpless after being in the care of such a doctor. If you require legal representation in a medical malpractice case, contact Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C as soon as possible. With over 200 years of combined legal experience, our Rhode Island medical malpractice lawyers have developed the skills and resources to hold both doctors and hospitals accountable for their negligence.

Our firm has recovered over $1 billion on behalf of our clients. Call Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C.at (401) 200-4059 to schedule a free consultation.

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