In a new precedent, Texas doctor, Christopher Duntsch, was sentenced to life in prison after several cases of medical malpractice were deemed intentional. Duntsch was working for Dallas Medical Center in Dallas, TX when he maimed the last of his victims. In a bizarre string of events, including greed, drug & alcohol abuse, and general disregard for human life, the medical malpractice injury wave is now over. Since Texas law only allows for a cap of $250,000 in damages against a negligent doctor, this sentence is seen as a huge victory for his victims, as well as other victims affected by other negligent doctors.
Several of Duntsch’s patients were the victims of medical malpractice which resulted in paralysis and two wrongful deaths. After a grand jury heard about Kellie Martin who died of blood loss during surgery and Floella Brown who died of a stroke after her vertebral artery was severed, as well as testimony from Jeff Glidewell who is now a paraplegic who had his spinal cord nearly severed and a surgical sponge left in his neck, 5 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of intentional injury to an elderly person were returned. The doctor has been in custody on $600,000 bail for several months. He now has been sentenced criminally to life in prison for the multiple cases of intentional medical malpractice he committed.
Longtime Drug & Alcohol Abuse May Have Contributed to Medical Malpractice
Throughout civil proceedings of the various medical malpractice victims, testimony was given by his childhood friend, and victim, Jerry Summers, of going on an all-night bender using LSD, painkillers and cocaine before performing rounds the following morning. Jerry Summers would later go on to suffer medical malpractice when Dunstch botched a neck surgery leaving him a quadriplegic.
Other patients, such as Jackie Troy, suffered a severed esophagus; and Lee Passmore suffered a severed ligament in the leg leaving him with severe nerve damage and pain. In Mr. Passmore’s surgery, the overseeing general surgeon, Dr. Mark Hoyle, saw Dunstch working in a pool of blood and started to question the surgeon’s techniques, he was told by Dunstch that he was working “by feel, not by sight.” After he stated he would need to sever the posterior longitudal ligament, one of two spinal stabilizers, Dr. Hoyle stepped in stopping Dunstch from doing further damage. After cleaning up the wound, he found that Dunstch had placed Passmore’s hardware too far to the left and that when he tried to remove a screw to move it, he stripped the screw, making it impossible to remove.
These are just a few of the egregious cases of medical malpractice Dunstch committed. Further investigation during the medical malpractice litigation found that he lied on his CV about a doctorate in microbiology from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who admitted no such program existed at the time Dunstch claimed to be attending school. Extensive testimony showed he had a huge demon in the way of drugs and alcohol and more than one person testified he would perform surgeries after being out all night using drugs prior to the operation.
Stopping a Medical Malpractice Monster
It wasn’t until personal injury attorney, Kay Van Wey, reported the many instances of medical malpractice to Texas criminal prosecutors, that Dunstch was stopped. The Texas Board of Health simply could not act fast enough to stop him before many others were seriously injured. One hospital was aware of alleged drug abuse, but never reported him to the National Practitioner Data Bank overseen by congress. Had they acted more quickly, people like Mary Eufurd may not have been left paralyzed after Dunstch left spine fragments in her spinal cavity and implanted a screw into her soft tissue, severing a nerve root.
Since Dunstch lost his license to practice, he had several strange arrests in and around Denver, where he was staying with his parents. One in particular, he was charged with DUI when found driving on two flat tires with open bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade in his vehicle. Another he was accused of stealing nearly $900 in merchandise at a local Wal-Mart. His behavior is nothing less than erratic. He once stated in an email to his former assistant and lover that he was “…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.” We’d say he fulfilled his desire in killing two women via medical malpractice.
All of the victims mentioned in this post have settled their claims against Dunstch in civil court. All settlements were taken with a non-disclosure agreement, making them confidential. Texas law only allows a person to sue a hospital if they are deemed to have acted “in malice,” which is what Lee Passmore has recently done. We wish him luck and hope he is able to set another precedent that would hold the hospitals accountable for hiring dangerous physicians.
Although his wake of pain and destruction is vast, we are glad to see someone like Dunstch sentenced to life in prison. His victims surely believe he deserves worse, but at this point, having him behind bars is the best thing possible for the general public.