Saturday, 16, October, 2021

Dossier | Who is Dr. Christopher Duntsch, the physician who inspired the Dr. Death series

Christopher Duntsch it's not a very old case, his case is dated around 2015 and is now at its peak again with the release of the series. Dr. Death, production based on the podcast of wondery about the surgeon's history and crimes. Discover Duntsch's life and the motivations for his actions.

Before starting, read the 1st reviewDr. Death's home.

Who was Christopher Duntsch?

Dossiê | Quem é o Dr. Christopher Duntsch, médico que inspirou a série Dr. Death 1
Dr. Christopher Duntsch/ Reproduction


The son of a physical therapist and a teacher, Duntsch was born in Montana and spent most of his life in Tennessee. Christopher never seemed satisfied, even with all the opportunities offered.

His initial ambition was to become a football player. Duntsch superbly understood theory but lacked practical skills for the game. When he was denied for the third time in his future career, he decided to go into the medical field. In 2010 he completed residency programs in neurosurgery and MD-PhD at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center and subsequently completed an on-site spine fellowship program.

In July 2015, Duntsch was arrested in Dallas and charged with six counts of lethal weapon assault, five of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and one of injury to an elderly person.

Duntsch family

Dossiê | Quem é o Dr. Christopher Duntsch, médico que inspirou a série Dr. Death 2
/Reproduction

It was during his residency period that Duntsch met the one who would be the mother of his two children, Wendy Renee Young. At the time, the doctor was in debt of more than $500,000 as a result of biotechnology projects, so he decided to turn to neurosurgery, which was an incredibly lucrative area. That's when he and Young move to Dallas in 2010.

Obviously, no one had suspected the doctor, even though he added to his curriculum a program that didn't even exist at the time, at the hospital he mentioned, since his CV was over 12 pages long and mentioned about 15 years of training.

Duntsch was eventually hired by Baylor Regional Medical Center as a spine surgeon with a salary of $600,000 a year, plus bonus.

What was Christopher Duntsch like professionally?


Christopher Duntsch has never been very popular in his area. His hospital reception was the worst. The newcomer emanated an air of authoritarianism and arrogance that immediately annoyed his professional colleagues.

Randall Kirby, one of the doctors who fought to get Duntsch to pay for his crimes, recalled that Duntsch often bragged about his abilities despite being so new to the field. Kirby also commented that Duntsch's operating room skills left a lot to be desired: "he couldn't hold a scalpel."

During his time in Dallas, he operated on 37 patients in two years of service, 33 of whom were injured, some fatally. Some people woke up paralyzed, while others woke up after anesthesia with permanent pain from nerve damage. One of these patients was even a childhood friend of Duntsch's, Jerry Summers, who went to have a spinal operation with someone he trusted and woke up quadriplegic because his vertebral artery was damaged.

How did the Investigation against Christopher Duntsch begin and why did it last so long?

Dossiê | Quem é o Dr. Christopher Duntsch, médico que inspirou a série Dr. Death 3
Christopher Duntsch's Conviction / Reproduction


In 2012, Christopher Duntsch performed spinal surgery in Mary Efurd. The 74-year-old woman was told that the operation would alleviate her back pain. But when the patient woke up screaming with “unbearable pain”, she couldn't take it anymore.

Two days later, she underwent a second surgery under the supervision of the neurosurgeon. Dr. Robert HendersonDuring the operation, it was discovered that Duntsch had pierced Efurd's muscle instead of his bone and severed a nerve at the root. There were also screw holes in places that never should have been.

Since then, Efurd has been confined to a wheelchair and still struggles to stay upright for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Such injuries should never have happened, especially to a doctor who claimed to be incredibly qualified. That was the exact argument of all the doctors involved as witnesses in the lawsuit brought against Duntsch.

After seeing what happened to Efurd, Henderson joined vascular surgeon Dr. Randall Kirby in an effort to report Duntsch's negligence.

The way Duntsch worked was to do such irreversible damage until it was “discovered” and then resign. Such an act was beneficial to prevent him from being denounced, and for the hospital, which would not be harmed by denouncing a doctor, and consequently, abdicating blame on the victim.

It also allowed Duntsch to work at other institutions, which is exactly what he did. After Baylor, he worked at the Dallas Medical Center, where he received temporary privileges until hospital staff could obtain his Baylor records. However, the alert emerged in the first and only week at the site, as nurses wondered if Duntsch was under the influence of drugs during the service. the patient's death Floella Brown and Mary Efurd's mutilation was enough for the surgeon to attract full attention.

After leaving Dallas Medical Center, Duntsch got a job at an outpatient clinic called Legacy Surgery Center where he made more victims. When Duntsch applied for a job at Methodist Hospital in Dallas, the hospital reported him to the NPDB. Even after this report, Duntsch was hired by the University General Hospital in Dallas in the spring of 2013. The latter was the culmination of his having his license revoked.

After increased pressure from Henderson and Kirby, the Texas Medical Board suspended Duntsch's medical license on June 26, 2013. What happened at the University General Hospital was described as an attempted murder by Kirby, who wrote a criminal complaint in the Texas medical advice.

Amid fears that he might move and get a medical license elsewhere, Duntsch was later arrested in Dallas in July 2015.

He was charged with six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five counts of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury and one count of injuries to an elderly person related to the Mary Efurd case.

Two years later, Duntsch was convicted of deliberately mutilating Efurd. Although he was arrested on several other charges, the trial only focused on Efurd's injuries, as her case provided the widest range of convictions.

Why did Christopher Duntsch screw up so many surgeries?

During the Duntsch case, prosecutors argued that after 17 years of research and training, Duntsch had intentionally performed several surgeries. They weren't accidents. However, Duntsch's exact reason for his malicious malpractice remains unclear.

Perhaps the ambition got in the way of Duntsch, who seems not to have finished his residency correctly, since at the time he was following paths of research and the start of a startup, which occupied a good part of his time. He ended up completing his residency after having participated in less than 100 surgeries.

Typically, neurosurgery residents participate in more than 1,000 surgeries during their residency. He was also suspected of being under the influence of cocaine while operating during his fourth year of residency, after which he was sent to a medically impaired program before being allowed to return to his residency program.

Rumors indicate that he was benefited by the professor responsible for the residency, freeing him from surgery, since both were partners in the Biotechnology startup in which Duntsch was working at the time.

How many people did Christopher Duntsch kill?

Between 2011 and 2013, Christopher Duntsch operated on 37 patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Out of these surgeries, two patients were killed.

One woman, Floella Brown, died of a stroke after Duntsch severed her vertebral artery. Another woman, Kelli Martin, died of blood loss after Duntsch cut a major artery in his spine during a minor back operation.

What happened to Christopher Duntsch after the crimes?

Henderson and Kirby, along with the prosecutor Michelle Shughart, worked hard to get evidence and depositions from the patients of Duntsch's victims. The survey didn't go anywhere until 2015, as they needed to understand which way they should go in order to get it right. There were many gaps.

As part of their investigation, prosecutors obtained an email in December 2011 in which Duntsch bragged that he was “…ready to let go of the love, kindness and patience I mix with everything else I am and become a murderer cold-blooded."

In July 2015, Duntsch was arrested in Dallas and charged with six counts of lethal weapon assault, five of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and one of injury to an elderly person.

It took 13 days of trial and 4 hours of deliberation to reach the verdict: Guilty to life imprisonment. He will not be entitled to parole until 2045, when he will be 74 years old.

All four hospitals where Duntsch worked have lawsuits against them.

Where is Christopher Duntsch now?

After being sentenced to life in prison, the 50-year-old man is currently incarcerated at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville.

Where are Dr. Randall Kirby and Dr. Robert Henderson now?

Dossiê | Quem é o Dr. Christopher Duntsch, médico que inspirou a série Dr. Death 4
Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin as Christian Slater Dr. Randall Kirby and Dr. Robert Henderson /Peacock


Kirby and Dr. Robert Henderson were instrumental in bringing down Christopher Duntsch.

Kirby became involved with the case for the first time after being called in to help Duntsch with what was supposed to be a routine procedure. At the time, Kirby realized that Duntsch's technique during surgery was completely wrong. Although Kirby was called in to help with a different surgery, Duntsch's patient that day was left temporarily confined to a wheelchair.

On the other hand, Henderson became involved in the case after being forced to perform rescue surgery on Mary Efurd, whom Duntsch had previously operated on. "It was like he knew everything to do and had done pretty much everything wrong," Henderson told ProPublic, reflecting on Efurd's surgery.

After teaming up, Kirby and Henderson fought hard to stop Duntsch's operation, which eventually attracted the attention of the Texas Medical Board.

To this day, Henderson and Kirby practice medicine in Texas.

Kirby is listed as the current president of Society of Spinal Access Surgeons and president of the Dallas Surgical Specialists, while Henderson still works as a surgeon with a focus on chronic back and leg pain.

Where is Jerry Summers now?

Dossiê | Quem é o Dr. Christopher Duntsch, médico que inspirou a série Dr. Death 5
Jerry Summers / Reproduction

After playing football together in high school, Christopher Duntsch and Jerry Summers were longtime friends. In fact, when Duntsch moved to Dallas to begin his career as a neurosurgeon, Summers joined him.

When Summers later decided to undergo surgery to treat his chronic neck pain, he chose Duntsch as his surgeon. And like many of Duntsch's patients, Summers' surgery was unsuccessful.

The reports state that “According to doctors who later reviewed the case, Duntsch had damaged Summers' vertebral artery, causing almost uncontrollable bleeding. To stop the bleeding, Duntsch filled the space with so much anticoagulant that it squeezed Summers' spine.”

After cervical fusion surgery in 2011, Summers became a quadriplegic. He later passed away in February 2021. He was 50 years old.

  1. this series is very impactful, portrays how ambition and money speak louder at all levels of society, the action of this doctor could have been stopped a long time ago, if it weren't for this flawed system that was used to cover up his practices

    • It is, of course, a very well-developed critique of the system and spells out in detail how power and greed in some cases trump empathy and good causes. Thanks for the comment!

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