Dr. Death: How a Surgeon Became a “Cold-Blooded Killer”
These kinds of cases are especially troubling in the field of medicine, where each physician takes a Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”
In one notorious case, the doctor in question not only violated his Hippocratic Oath but also jumped from hospital to hospital, severely injuring and even taking the lives of patients he was meant to help.
As such, Dr. Christopher Duntsch became one of the rare physicians to be criminally indicted on account of what happened in his operating rooms.
The Story of Christopher Duntsch
While Dr. Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison on February 20, 2017, he began harming patients as early as 2011 and was allowed to practice until his license was suspended in 2013.
During this time, none of the hospitals Duntsch worked for communicated with one another about his misconduct, nor did they take note of the red flags that followed his career and behavior as a physician. In fact, the popular podcast, “Dr. Death,” details how hospital officials ignored explicit warnings from Duntsch’s colleagues.
For nearly 2 years, Duntsch, who had botched surgery after surgery and expressed his desire to “become a cold blooded killer,” was permitted to treat patients.
All 4 hospitals that employed Duntsch are facing ongoing civil litigation.
How Could This Happen?
In his early career, Duntsch was deeply charismatic and claimed to be the best neurosurgeon in the business. Nearly everyone who met him liked him, and patients trusted him. When Duntsch’s first surgery went wrong in 2011, colleagues saw “blood and not much else,” and figured he simply made a mistake as a relatively new surgeon. Still, one coworker’s decision to never work with Duntsch again saved his patient’s life.
Meanwhile, Duntsch went on to cause a litany of negative patient outcomes, including the death of 2 women at 2 different hospitals in the Dallas area. Whenever Duntsch’s work was questioned, he simply moved on to another institution.
By failing to track Duntsch and his trail of pain and bloodshed, the hospitals themselves were negligent. Instead of keeping patients safe, they put them right under a killer’s knife. The botched surgeries were public record and Duntsch’s reputation of late-night partying and drug and alcohol abuse was hard to ignore.
Even when Duntsch was subjected to disciplinary action, hospitals did not report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank, possibly to preserve their own reputations. As such, Duntsch’s increasingly troubling behavior was allowed to fly under the radar.
Who Is Responsible?
Duntsch is currently serving a life sentence for his egregious behavior in the operating room. Even though he won’t be allowed to hurt anyone else, this punishment does little for his victims and their families.
Consequently, many injured patients have sued the Baylor Health Care System in federal district court. The plaintiffs argued that Baylor should have known Duntsch was dangerous and prevented him from operating on them. Further, Baylor should have prevented Duntsch from continuing his career after he permanently injured several patients and caused another to bleed to death while working at Baylor.
Instead, Baylor gave Duntsch a letter saying he had “no outstanding investigations or restrictions,” allowing him to get credentials at Dallas Medical Center, where he harmed two of the plaintiffs and incited the death of yet another woman.
Unfortunately, to win their lawsuit, these plaintiffs will have to change Texas law. Current legislation makes it extremely difficult to hold a hospital accountable for allowing a dangerous doctor to operate.
The hospitals that employed Dr. Duntsch are likely responsible for his conduct, as well as the injuries and losses his plaintiffs suffered, but the case of Dr. Death might go all the way to the Supreme Court.
What You Can Do If You’ve Been Harmed by a Doctor
In addition to filing against the hospital, the plaintiffs in this particular case could have filed directly against Christopher Duntsch for medical malpractice. Before being arrested, however, Dr. Duntsch filed for bankruptcy, so their suit would not have been lucrative.
If you’ve been harmed by a physician or another healthcare provider, you should file a civil complaint ASAP, whether their behavior was intentional or not.
Once our firm discusses your case with you, Attorney Brett H. Oppenheimer can determine whether the hospital or institution your doctor worked for should face liability, as well.
Get started today by calling Brett at (502) 242-8877 or scheduling a free consultation online.