Neurosurgeon gets life in prison for botched surgeries

A jury in Dallas has sentenced a neurosurgeon to life in prison after hearing about several cases where he maimed, paralyzed or killed his patients.

On Tuesday, Christopher Duntsch, 46, was found guilty of injury to an elderly woman, a first-degree felony in Texas, where someone “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence” causes injury to an elderly person.

 

On Monday, Duntsch became the first doctor in Dallas County history to be convicted of a surgery gone wrong, District Attorney Faith Johnson said in a news conference after the sentencing.

Duntsch was arrested in 2015 on five charges of aggravated assault after causing the death of two patients and crippling four others between July 2012 and June 2013. For their case, however, prosecutors only focused on the 2012 botched surgery of Mary
Efurd, 74, came to Duntsch to have two vertebrae fused, and nearly died under Duntsch’s knife after losing a third of her blood, as well as the use of her legs.

The doctor who treated Efurd after her botched surgery said he had “done virtually everything wrong.” Dr. Robert Henderson said he found implants inside of muscles instead of on the bone, and a screw was drilled directly into a nerve root in her spinal cavity, which had been amputated.

It’s as egregious as you can imagine,” Henderson said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The jury also heard testimony from medical experts and other patients that Duntsch maimed and paralyzed, including Jacqueline Troy, who told jurors how she almost died after a Duntsch performed surgery on her in 2012.

During her surgery, Troy says her vocal chords were paralyzed, her esophagus was pinned under a plate, and her trachea had holes punctured in it. When doctors treated Troy after Duntsch’s surgery, they found she was riddled with infections, and had to use a feeding tube to stop food from getting into her lungs.

Dr. Martin Lazar testified that Troy’s surgery was “an unmitigated disaster.

My personal suspicion is that this is somebody who has no conscious, no empathy,” Lazar told the jury, according to WFAA. “This has the appearance that the patients are treated like cannon fodder. They were just there to be operated on.

Jurors also heard about Jeff Glidewell, the last patient that Duntsch ever performed on, who suffered severe damage to his spinal nerves after Duntsch cut into his esophagus looking for a tumor that ended up being a muscle.

It looked like Christopher Duntsch tried to decapitate Mr. Glidewell,” Dr. Randall Kirby said, according to WFAA. “I’m not kidding you.

 

This has not happened in the United States of America, where you can do such a procedure and have such complications: leave sponge, knock a hole in someone’s esophagus, take out the recurrent laryngeal nerve, take out the vertebral artery and just leave the patient there without any attempt to transfer,” Kirby said.

The jury also saw evidence of Duntsch’s psychological delusions. In an email he sent to a colleague in 2011, Duntsch told an employee that he would become a cold-blooded killer.

You, my child, are the only one between me and the other side. I am ready to leave the love and kindness and goodness and patience that I mix with everything else that I am and become a cold-blooded killer,” Duntsch said.

When the conviction came in, victims and their families were able to breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that Duntsch would never be able to perform another surgery from behind bars.

It won’t obviously bring my mom back and it won’t heal the 34 people that have been affected, but it will bring some sense of justice and particularly some sense of closure,” Dr. Martin-Linduff told the Dallas Morning News.

 

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Posted by on February 20, 2017, With 1949 Reads Filed under Investigations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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8 Responses to "Neurosurgeon gets life in prison for botched surgeries"

  1. joetv  February 21, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Who assited this “killer” in the OR? There must be others with a shared culpability, who were there in the room with him. I trust the DA is also investigating them. The recipient of the email had a moral, and legal obligation to share the email, received from “his collegue”, with the authorities. There are unindicted co-conspiritors running around, amok, ah shit.

  2. alan colorado  February 21, 2017 at 7:15 am

    The AMA will back every and any doctor as long as they adhere to the agency’s core principles. Doctors must bankrupt as many patients as possible through needless or unproven surgeries and expensive dangerous side effect medications as they can before the patient dies from such practices.

  3. JohnZ  February 21, 2017 at 5:07 am

    Jebus! where did this incompetent fool get his degree? The School of Medical Malpractice in Jamaica?
    So sad he butchered so many people who trusted this quack. Now he’s going to prison for the rest of his life.
    Isn’t fit to cut meat.

    • Trakkath  February 21, 2017 at 6:24 am

      Perhaps he can help to solve the problem with overcrowded prisons ?

  4. wjabbe  February 21, 2017 at 2:26 am

    A medical doctor named William Summerlin at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NY painted spots on the backs of lab animals to fool his bosses and others! They gave him a slap on the wrist and allowed him to go out and practice medicine. He could be your doctor. Medical doctors get away with murder. By the way for many years pre med students have been often treated to watered down courses in physics compared to physicists and engineers. I noticed this over 60 years ago when I was in school. Physicists and engineers at most reputable schools are required to take four full semesters of rigorous physics in the first two years accompanied by appropriate courses in differential and integral calculus but not pre med majors; they are mostly given watered down courses differing little from high school physics. Otherwise they wouldn’t have enough doctors. This is more than just about physics. It is about producing a doctor who has been required to go through rigorous intellectual development similar to the way the Marine Corps does with its recruits mentally and physically. Introductory physics classes for physics and engineers is one of the most difficult programs in any true college or university. It is a disgrace that standards for medical doctors have been lowered. You can’t use what you don’t know. The top doctors like Otto Warburg, M.D., Ph.D. in Germany were not treated to watered down physics classes.

  5. wjabbe  February 21, 2017 at 2:06 am

    Quote from Wikipedia: ” Duntsch did his MD, PhD, and neurosurgery residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center[7], and subsequently was an assistant professor there.[8] He then moved to Dallas to work at Baylor Plano. After several botched surgeries, he left for Dallas Medical Center, where he was employed for less than a week before he was dismissed by administrators after the death of another patient.[9]” If Gordon or one of the other journalists from VT went up to the University of Tennessee and sought to uncover what went wrong with the system when they gave out worthless degrees to this person, they would be stonewalled with “privacy” laws and receive zero cooperation from the institution. Obviously the system for regulating medical doctors is broken to put it mildly. Similar cases happen to unlucky victims every day but are quietly dealt with by lawyers and insurance companies. It is good this was published but Tennessee should receive some long and hard bad publicity over this and have some serious federal funding removed for a long time from this medical school cesspool there. And what will happen to him on appeal?

    • JohnZ  February 21, 2017 at 5:11 am

      No different than the FOP or the cop’s union, where their job is to protect the cops when they run amok, sell drugs or rape girls.
      I agree, the medical profession in America is filled with quacks and dangerous cutters, who graduated from prestigious schools.
      It’s all a big club and you ain’t in it!

  6. paul becke  February 21, 2017 at 2:05 am

    It was such a clear case of wanton and cruel malice on the part of the surgeon, wasn’t it ? Yet, it is still a relief to see justice served by the system, which can never be taken for granted, given our extraordinary defectibility as human beings.

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