The True Story Of Dr. Death & Christopher Duntsch

Summary

  • Christopher Duntsch, known as Dr. Death, caused serious harm to his patients through malpractice, resulting in injuries and deaths.
  • Peacock’s Dr. Death takes creative liberties to tell the story effectively, changing names and creating scenes for dramatic impact.
  • Duntsch operated on 38 patients, leaving 31 paralyzed or seriously injured, and causing the deaths of two. He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.


Peacock’s Dr. Death paints a vivid picture of a maniacal doctor who causes serious pain to his patients, and the story is based on a horrific real-life case. Christopher Duntsch, widely known as Dr. Death, is the focus of season 1 of Peacock’s anthology series that is devoted to exposing doctors who ruined their patients’ lives through their malpractice. Duntsch is one of the worst cases in modern times, as he had absolutely no regard for the lives of those he was operating on and was not stopped by the medical community from causing harm to other people. Though his story seems too abhorrent to be true, Duntsch is a real-life person who really did cause harm to dozens of people and has gone down in infamy as one of the worst surgeons to exist.

In order to help convey the story and help all of the information fit into one season, Dr. Death does, however, take certain creative liberties. Given that the real-life events spanned over years and that the stories are medical in nature, it makes sense that there were charges made. For example, certain scenes were created for dramatic impact, and some characters’ names on Dr. Death were changed for privacy purposes. This is not uncommon and done with purpose, but does leave audiences with more questions. Many viewers are left curious about what parts of the show are rooted in truth and which ones have been slightly exaggerated for the sake of entertainment. Luckily, there are thorough records of what went down with the real-life Dr. Death that makes it simple to navigate truth versus fiction.

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Christopher Duntsch’s Dr. Death Nickname Explained

Christopher Duntsch in the operating room in Dr. Death

The former American neurosurgeon was given the dark nickname “Dr. Death” due to his gross malpractice. Duntsch began practicing in 2010 when moved to Dallas, Texas and began working at the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute. He also started his own practice that year and was given the privilege to operate at Baylor Regional Medical Center of Plano. During his time at these hospitals, Duntsch ended up injuring, maiming, and paralyzing more than 30 different patients. Duntsch even left two dead because of his terrible practices, hence the nickname. The nickname was first used by D Magazine in 2016, which is Dallas’ monthly publication, and it has stuck since.

What Happened To Christopher Duntsch’s Patients

.Dr Christopher Duntsch sits in a chair in Dr. Death

Over the course of two years, Duntsch reportedly operated on 38 patients in the Dallas, Texas area. Of those 38, 31 of them were left paralyzed or seriously injured and two of them passed away due to surgical complications. One of the patients was Jerry Summers, one of Duntsch’s childhood friends.Summers suffered a severe neck injury as a teenager, and it got worse following a car accident. When operating on him, Duntsch ended up paralyzing him by cutting the arteries running down his spine. Peacock’s Dr. Death described Duntsch as virtually severing Summers’ head from his spine. Summers even accused Duntsch of spending the night prior to his surgery trying to get him to do cocaine with him.

After this, Duntsch’s surgical privileges were temporarily suspended. When he returned, his first patient he operated on was named Kellie Martin. Though it was a relatively common procedure, Martin bled out and died in intensive care after her surgery. This led Baylor to cut ties with Duntsch, but they did not do so in the proper way. They did not report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which is a requirement by law, and allowed him to resign. They did not inform his subsequent employers of the incidents the hospital had with him, which allowed him to continue to dangerously operate on patients.

Following Martin’s surgery, Duntsch left Baylor Plano but managed to secure temporary surgical privileges at Dallas Medical Center. Here, he met a 64-year-old woman named Floella Brown who had worsening back pain. The morning after being operated on by Duntsch, Brown woke up convulsing and had lost consciousness. It has been reported that Brown’s vertebral artery was sliced open and she was declared brain-dead. When Dunstch was called in to see what was going on with Brown, he reportedly arrived at the hospital late and looking disheveled – an indication of his poor mental state.

Other victims at the hands of Duntsch include an investigator with the Collin County Medical Examiner’s office named Lee Passmore. It was reported that Duntsch cut out a ligament around his spinal cord and misplaced hardware in Passmore’s spine. Passmore suffered chronic pain as a result of this botched surgery. Barry Morguloff was another patient of Duntsch’s, and he suffered from back pain after unloading trucks. Morguloff was ultimately left with more pain than before and with no feeling in one of his legs.

Christopher Duntsch’s Criminal Charges & The Hospital Lawsuits Explained

Dr. Death, Christopher Dunsch, holds his gloved hands up in the operating room

Duntsch was arrested in 2015, with state regulators saying that his actions led to the death of two patients and left two others with disabling injuries. Dunstch was eventually charged by Dallas prosecutors with five counts of aggravated assault with deadly weapons, which were his own hands and his surgical tools. He was also charged with one count of causing seriously bodily injury to an elderly person, who he later went on trial for.

The elderly patients name was Mary Erfund, and Duntsch performed spinal surgery on her in 2012. Since the surgery, she has been in a wheelchair because he severed a nerve root and left screw holes in her spine. Dunstch ultimately got convicted and sentenced to life in prison, which has made him the first doctor in the nation to be served this punishment for practice of medicine.

What Happened To The Real Dr. Death

Christian Slater Dr Death

The real Dr. Death had his medical license suspended by the Texas Medical Board in 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison. He remains in prison, and a law was passed in June of 2023 to prevent doctors who have their licenses revoked in other states from practicing in Texas. The law also forces the local medical board to inform the public when a physician is put under disciplinary action, as this did not happen in Duntsch’s case.

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