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Christopher Duntsch, Known As Dr. Death, Maimed His Patients Through Routine Back Surgery

Updated February 20, 2019 59.8k views12 items

Christopher Duntsch - AKA Dr. Death - spent 18 months as a practicing surgeon at multiple Texas hospitals until he had his license revoked in 2013. Over this period, Duntsch performed back surgeries that left his patients in a worse condition, paralyzed, or deceased. Some hospitals may be reluctant to report doctors who have allegedly caused bodily harm to patients. Lawsuits can cost hospitals millions of dollars and lost credibility, making it easier just to fire the offending doctor.

Duntsch destroyed the lives of numerous patients who were seeking relief from back problems. Ultimately, Duntsch's horrific mistakes made during surgery and alleged drug use caught up with him.

  • Multiple Doctors Reported Duntsch

    Dr. Randall Kirby worked with Duntsch during his residency at Baylor Regional Medical Center of Plano. Kirby assisted Duntsch during Barry Morguloff's disastrous surgery in January 2012. During the procedure, Morguloff suffered a punctured vertebral artery and had bone fragments lodged in his back muscles.

    Following this incident and a few others, Kirby reported Duntsch to the Texas Medical Board, sending an extensive and detailed complaint. Accompanied by reports from other surgeons who had to clean up Duntsch's surgical debacles, the complaint finally led to the board suspending Duntsch's medical license in June 2013.

    Prior to Kirby's complaint, the CEO of Dallas Medical Center filed a report and alerted the Texas Medical Board that they had fired Duntsch. This dismissal came after Duntsch's surgeries in July 2012 allegedly resulted in Floella Brown's stroke and left Mary Efurd with damaged and amputated nerve roots and metal hardware embedded in her back muscle.

  • Photo: Airman 1st Class Andrew Sarver / Airforce Medical Service / Public Domain

    Other Neurosurgeons Attempted To Clean Up Duntsch's Mistakes

    Scans of Barry Morguloff's back showed Duntsch had left bone fragments inside the patient's body during his January 2012 anterior lumbar spinal fusion. The surgeon who took over after Duntsch's surgery on Jerry Summers in February 2012 discovered a damaged spinal artery had led to the patient's paralysis.

    After Duntsch realized the patient's bleeding would not stop, he packed an excessive amount of coagulants around the artery. This compressed Summers's spine, causing him to become incapacitated from the neck down - yet still able to feel pain. Summers became a "quadriplegic with incomplete paralysis."

    Dr. Robert Henderson performed surgery on Mary Efurd after her July 2012 encounter with Duntsch left her in even more pain. Henderson found Duntsch had created multiple misplaced screw holes, some of which did not even contain a surgical screw. Duntsch had also damaged a nerve in Efurd's spine with a screw, amputated a nerve root, and attached the spinal fusion hardware to her back muscle instead of her spine.

  • New Employers Were Unaware Of The Internal Findings That Held Duntsch At Fault

    In 2011, Duntsch started his career as a practicing surgeon at the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute. He performed surgery on a patient, then left the hospital to take a trip to Las Vegas, which meant the patient received no aftercare. The institute fired Duntsch, but he remained on staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano.

    At Baylor, Duntsch mishandled a spinal fusion on Barry Morguloff that resulted in further pain for the patient. Duntsch also made errors during the same type of procedure on his childhood friend, Jerry Summers, slicing a vertebral artery and rendering Summers permanently immobile. Despite allegedly causing Kellie Martin's demise in March 2012, Duntsch was able to quietly resign from Baylor without anyone shedding light on his wrongdoings.

    Duntsch claimed Summers's condition was due to the patient's adverse reaction to a drug used in the procedure and that anesthesia had caused Martin's passing.

    When Duntsch applied to work at Dallas Medical Center, his background check revealed no black marks on his record. The center hired him. A surgeon at the facility, Dr. Robert Henderson, alleged that Baylor said Duntsch was not problematic while employed there.

  • Duntsch Became The First Doctor To Receive A Life Sentence For Botched Surgery

    After Duntsch's disastrous surgery on Jeffrey Glidewell in June 2013, the Texas Medical Board suspended his license. In December 2013, his license was permanently revoked. With multiple mishandled surgeries that allegedly resulted in two dispatched patients and numerous damages, Duntsch had a proven pattern of causing harm to patients.

    In July 2015, authorities apprehended Duntsch for five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily harm and one count of injury to an elderly person. The trial focused on the July 2012 surgery of Mary Efurd, a 74-year-old patient at the time of the procedure. The court convicted Duntsch, sentencing him to life in prison for causing harm to Efurd.

    Duntsch was the first doctor to receive a life sentence for medical malpractice involving botched surgery.