Sociopath?Dr Christopher Duntsch is accused of inflicting misery on multiple patients - and killing two - over years of intentionally botched surgeries
A Texas neurosurgeon accused of intentionally inflicting agony on countless patients, killing two and leaving four paralyzed over several years of maliciously botched spinal procedures, was denied a reduction of his $600,000 bail at a hearing Friday.
Dr Christopher Duntsch, the so-called 'sociopath surgeon', will remain in a Dallas jail as he awaits his trial thanks in part to a newly revealed email that portrays the 44 year old as nothing less than a bloodthirsty madman, reports the Dallas Morning News.
'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 wrote to one of his employees.
Duntsch's alleged acts of malice amount to some of the most egregious malpractice Texas has seen.
'You don't see a doctor charged with this,' said Dallas County prosecutor Kevin Brooks, adding that doctors who run afoul of the law usually are accused of insurance or prescription fraud. 'It's fairly rare.'
He compared the severity of the charges against Duntsch with those levied against a Detroit-area cancer doctor sentenced in July to 45 years in prison for collecting millions from insurance companies while poisoning more than 500 patients through needless treatments that harmed their health.
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Horrific: Duntsch operated on the wrong part of a patient's spine, damaged nerves and left one woman with chronic pain and dependent on a wheelchair, according to criminal and civil court records. State records show he left a sponge in another patient following surgery
In indictments filed last month, prosecutors say his hands amounted to a 'deadly weapon' because he used them to improperly insert medical devices and screws into patients meant to alleviate nerve and other pain.
He operated on the wrong part of a patient's spine, damaged nerves and left one woman with chronic pain and dependent on a wheelchair, according to criminal and civil court records. State records show he left a sponge in another patient following surgery.
A resident of Centennial, Colorado, Duntsch was arrested recently when he returned to the Dallas area to visit his two young children.
His attorney, Mario Herrera, said his client has not yet entered a plea but will defend himself against all charges, which include five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and one of injury to an elderly person causing serious bodily injury.
'My client has defended himself throughout this process and has been successful in navigating through these waters,' Herrera said.
Kellie Martin, pictured left, died after Duntsch performed a 'routine' spinal surgery, one of two patients prosecutors say died as a direct result of Duntsch's malice.Mary Efurd, pictured right, woke up after surgery barely able to move her legs
Among the patients who he operated on was Kellie Martin who died after Duntsch performed a 'routine' spinal surgery and Floella Brown who lost excessive blood during surgery. Prosecutors say the two died as a direct result of Duntsch's malice.
The Plano Star Courier quoted the Texas medical Board as saying: 'Duntsch... did unlawfully then and there intentionally, knowingly and recklessly cause serious bodily injury to Floella Brown... by malpositioning an interbody device and removing an excessive amount of bone from the vertebral body', reads one indictment, 'and cutting the left vertebral artery and occluding the left vertebral artery and disregarding complainant’s excessive blood loss during surgery'.
Brown was pronounced dead July 25, 2012, the day after her disc removal and spinal fusion surgery.
Reports show that while Brown lay dying, Duntsch was in the process of performing a spinal fusion on Mary Efurd, 74, of Plano.Efurd woke up after surgery barely able to move her legs.
The indictment states that during the surgery, Duntsch caused serious bodily injury to Efurd by criminal negligence, malpositioning an interbody device and pedicle screws and amputating a nerve root.
Others to be left paralyzed include Duntsch's former roommate, Jerry Summers. He says he will never walk again.
And Philip Mayfield, 45, who said he was pleased Duntsch was denied bail. 'I am very well-pleased that he will remain in jail and that justice will eventually be served for the crimes that he has committed,' Mayfield said.
Former roommate: Jerry Summers will never walk again following the operation by Duntsch
'I am very well-pleased that he will remain in jail and that justice will eventually be served for the crimes that he has committed,' said Philip Mayfield, 45, who says he was left paralyzed byDuntsch's misconduct
- July 24, 2012 - Duntsch performed surgery on Floella Brown at Dallas Medical Center. He 'knowingly' positioned the plate to the left on her spine, injuring her vertebral artery, which led to her stroke and her death.
- July 25, 2012 – Duntsch misplaced a device into Mary Efurd’s spine while performing surgery on her at Dallas Medical Center. He 'drilled multiple holes' in her body while trying to install screws, damaging her nerves and causing her to be in severe pain. She no longer has control over her foot.
- Sept. 20, 2012 – Duntsch performed surgery on a man at South Hampton Community Hospital in south Dallas. Duntsch cut the patient’s spinal cord, causing him to be paralyzed.
- May 6, 2013 – Duntsch performed surgery on a woman at University General Hospital of Dallas. He 'knowingly selected and installed' a screw that was “far too long” - 75 mm instead of 45 mm. The screw was pushed through the patient’s major vein, causing severe blood loss of 2,400 milliliters. The surgery damaged the patient’s psoas muscle and nerve roots.
- June 10, 2013 – Duntsch performed surgery on a man at University General Hospital. During the procedure, Duntsch 'dissected a piece of the complainant’s esophagus', leaving a hole and causing the patient to have trouble breathing, swallowing and eating. Duntsch’s 'unacceptable surgical technique' led to damage to the patient’s vertebral artery, which supplies blood to the brain. The patient lost 1,300 milliliters of blood and suffered spinal nerve damage. Duntsch also left a surgical sponge inside the man’s body, causing a severe infection with lasting effects.
*According to the Dallas Police affidavit as reported by The Dallas Morning News
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Duntsch was issued a license to practice medicine in Texas in 2010, according to the Texas Medical Board. But within two years the board began receiving complaints about him.
The board in June 2013 took the initial step of suspending Duntsch's license to practice in Texas, finding at the time that he was 'unable to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety due to impairment from drugs or alcohol'.
But when the board in December of that year revoked his license altogether, it determined that no evidence existed to support claims that he was under the influence when performing surgery.
In the agreement the board reached with Duntsch to revoke his license, it was determined that he violated standards of care for six patients.
Herrera said the agreement does not mean his client admits any wrongdoing alleged in the criminal charges.
Duntsch has had at least three lawsuits filed against him in the last few years.
One lawsuit filed in Dallas County contends he misdiagnosed the radiating neck pain one woman suffered and botched her 2012 surgery to the point she suffered a stroke and so much blood loss that she died days later.
State records show earlier that year another patient he operated on died when she sustained hemorrhaging that he failed to promptly identify.
Medical personnel who assisted Duntsch during a surgery in July 2012 say he appeared distracted and disoriented, according to one lawsuit. At one point he 'broke scrub' and left the operating room. When he returned, Duntsch appeared to have lost his focus and his assistants questioned whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the suit.
Criticism that not enough was done to stop Duntsch sooner has focused on the hospitals where he worked and the Texas Medical Board. A reference letter from one hospital that Duntsch used to secure privileges at another made no mention of accusations against him, The Dallas Morning News has reported.
Meanwhile, Jarrett Schneider, spokesman for the medical board, said in a statement that board investigations can be slowed when hospitals fail to notify the agency of improper conduct. Investigations also can take time because state law requires evidence that a physician is a 'continuing threat,' which is a high threshold of proof, Schneider said.
So-called surgery: Jerry Summers says he was rendered quadriplegic byDuntsch's so-called surgery