top of page

Dr. Death: Christopher Duntsch

Updated: Mar 16, 2022



Gross incompetence, or a deranged sociopath?

From 2011-2013, Dr death was accused of injuring 33 out of 38 patients within only 2 years, 2 of those patients died.

Today, for our season 3 finale, I have put together a round table of guests to discuss Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a Texas neurosurgeon with a license to kill. With 17 years of training, how could a surgeon be so incompetent? Or was he?

My guests today include:

  • my wonderful husband, Rick Rollins, a Critical care paramedic, whom you have heard on other episodes this season, including Jarron Pridgeon & Edwin Bell, The Axe Murders of the South, and RJ Thompson. I believe his medical knowledge will come in handy on this episode.

  • Emma Waters, a psychologist and sociologist who can maybe bring light to that big initial opening question.

  • And Bill Shackleford, a behind the scenes guy much like me who would probably rather be producing this episode that being on it. He has studied mass communications. (The group introduces themselves.)


Christopher Duntsch was born in Montana on April 3rd, 1971 and spent most of his youth in Memphis, Tennessee. His father, Donald, was a physical therapist and Christian missionary, and his mother, Susan, was a schoolteacher. He is a graduate of Evangelical Christian School in the Cordova suburb of Memphis, where he starred in football.

Duntsch initially attended Millsaps College to play Division III college football, and later transferred to Division I Colorado State University. Former teammates later said that, while Duntsch trained hard, he lacked talent at the game. Duntsch returned home to attend Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis).

Having exhausted his football eligibility, Duntsch decided to switch to a career in medicine. Duntsch completed his undergraduate degree in 1995 from the University of Memphis, then continued on to an ambitious MD-PhD program. In 2010, he completed the MD–PhD and neurosurgery residency programs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and subsequently completed a spine fellowship program at the Semmes-Murphey Clinic in Memphis.

He did his surgical residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, spending five years studying neurosurgery and a year studying general surgery. During this time, he ran two successful labs and raised millions of dollars in grant funding.

Duntsch completed his residency having participated in fewer than 100 surgeries. Typically, neurosurgery residents participate in over 1,000 surgeries in the course of their residency.

Around 2006 and 2007, Duntsch began to become unhinged. According to Megan Kane, an ex-girlfriend of one of Duntsch’s friends, she saw him eat a paper blotter of LSD and take prescription painkillers on his birthday. She also said that he kept a pile of cocaine on his dresser in his home office. Kane also recalled a cocaine- and LSD-fueled night of partying between her, her ex-boyfriend, and Duntsch where, after the end of their all-night party, she saw Duntsch put on his lab coat and go to work.

He was suspected of being under the influence of cocaine while operating during his fourth year of residency training and refused to take a drug test, and was sent to a program for impaired physicians. He remained there for several months before being allowed to return to the residency.

Audio of his supervisor about his drug problem in his fellowship program.

While in Memphis, Duntsch began a long-term relationship with Wendy Renee Young. They have two sons. She remained with him through the entirety of this case, despite all of the things we are about to talk about and constant domestic violence within the relationship. They finally separated in 2014.

Initially, Duntsch focused heavily on the PhD half of his degree. His name appeared on several papers and patents, and he took part in a number of biotech startups. However, by the time he met Young, Duntsch was over $500,000 in debt. He decided to turn to neurosurgery, which can be a lucrative field.

In 2010, Duntsch moved to Dallas. He persuaded Young to come with him; Young agreed, since she had grown up in the Dallas area.

Upon applying for work, he looked extremely qualified on paper: he had spent a total of fifteen years in training (medical school, residency and fellowship), and his curriculum vitae was twelve single-spaced pages. Duntsch also claimed to have graduated magna cum laude from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a doctorate in microbiology – a program that the hospital did not offer at the time he allegedly attended.

Duntsch focused on his research for a while but was recruited from Memphis to join the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in North Dallas in the summer of 2011.

After he arrived in town, he secured a deal with the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano and was given surgical rights at the hospital.

Duntsch joined Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano (now Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano) as a minimally invasive spine surgeon with a salary of $600,000 per year, plus bonuses.

Early in his tenure at Baylor Plano, Duntsch made a poor impression on his fellow surgeons. Veteran vascular surgeon Randall Kirby recalled that Duntsch frequently boasted about his abilities despite being so new to the area. Kirby also recalled that Duntsch's skills in the operating room left much to be desired; as Kirby put it, "he could not wield a scalpel".

Duntsch was able to lure patient after patient under his knife was his extreme confidence.

Dr. Mark Hoyle, a vascular surgeon who worked with Duntsch during one of his botched procedures, told D Magazine that he would make extremely arrogant announcements such as: “Everybody is doing it wrong. I’m the only clean minimally invasive guy in the whole state.”

Before working with him, Dr. Hoyle said that he didn’t know how to feel about his fellow surgeon.

I thought he was either really, really good, or he’s just really, really arrogant and thought he was good,” Hoyle said.

He performed only one surgery with the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute. Duntsch was fired after he performed a surgery and immediately left for Las Vegas, leaving no one to look after his patient.

He might have been fired from the Institute but was still a surgeon at Baylor Plano.

So first off, let me say, I worked as a surgical tech at a large hospital here in Tulsa for about a year, and something I want everyone to remember is who all is usually inside an OR when a surgery is taking place. You usually have your surgeon, maybe an assisting surgeon or PA. Then your scrub tech or surgical tech and 1 or 2 surgical assistants, an anesthesiologist and their tech. Depending on the surgery you may also have A cardiac perfusionist, and RN, but definitely a TEAM of people, all with different skills and jobs.

  • Kenneth Fennell, the first patient Duntsch operated on at Baylor Plano, was left with chronic pain after Duntsch operated on the wrong part of his back. Due to the debilitating pain, Fennell later had a second operation by Duntsch to relieve it, and was left significantly paralyzed in his legs. Fennell required months of rehabilitation to be able to walk with a cane, and was left unable to walk for more than 30 feet or stand for more than a few minutes without having to sit down again.

  • Lee Passmore, Dec 2011- a Collin County medical investigator, experienced chronic pain and limited mobility after Duntsch cut a ligament which was not normally touched during that particular procedure. Vascular surgeon Mark Hoyle, who assisted with the operation, later recalled that Duntsch seemed oblivious to considerable bleeding. He would later testify that he observed Duntsch cut out a ligament around the spinal cord that isn’t normally touched in the back surgery, misplace hardware in Passmore’s spine and strip the screw that kept the hardware in place, making it impossible to move the device. Even if Duntsch had not stripped the threads, he placed the screw in a location that would have caused Passmore to bleed out if it had been removed. Hoyle became so disturbed by Duntsch's actions that at one point he physically restrained him. He later told Duntsch to his face that he was dangerous. Duntsch's behavior led Hoyle to wonder about his sanity. Lee has crippling nerve spasms to this day due to Duntsch needlessly removing parts of his spine. He can barely speak without them being prominent in his speech.

  • Barry Morguloff, Jan 2012, the owner of a pool service company, Barry Morguloff went to Duntsch for a spinal fusion, a procedure that joined two vertebrae together using a metal plate, after getting a referral from a pain clinic. He was left with bone fragments from the vertebrae lodged into the nerves of his back after Duntsch tried to pull a damaged disc out of his back with a grabbing tool. This is suppose to be done with a scalpel very delicately. It was, according to staff in the surgery, a very violent way to remove the disc. This left fragmented bone that was left inside, and he also had unused hardwear (screws) left inside him as well.

  • Dr. Randall Kirby assisted with the surgery and recalled Duntsch continued making mistakes even after having the correct anatomy was pointed out to him by himself during the surgery. Duntsch initially refused to give Morguloff any pain medicine after he woke up in pain after the surgery, claiming Morguloff was a "drug seeker". Morguloff eventually lost most of the function on his left side and requires a wheelchair to this day. Morguloff later recalled that he walked out on a follow-up visit with Duntsch when Duntsch displayed clear signs of being inebriated. Barry complained to the Medical Board and they found that the standard of care was met after an investigation into the case.

  • Jerry Summers, Feb 2012, Duntsch's best friend since high school and his personal hype man and boyfriend of Megan Kane, came to Plano to have two neck vertebrae fused after a car wreck where he rear ended someone and it left him in constant pain. He went under the knife for an elective spinal fusion surgery. Before surgery, his anesthesiologist on that case said she asked him if he needed anything for the surgery before they began and he replied "No, I could do this surgery with my eyes closed." She also mentions that during the surgery, he was very distracted, constantly hitting on his surgical assistant. She said it made her feel very uncomfortable and was one of the most inappropriate conversations she had ever heard in the OR. The anesthesiologist then recalled that Summers lost almost 1,200 milliliters of blood, more than a fifth of his blood volume and almost 24 times the typical amount of blood lost in a spinal fusion. Typical blood loss for this surgery is around 50 ML. To try to stop the bleeding, Duntsch packed the space with so much anticoagulant gel foam, that it constricted Summers’ spine, and removed so much of his bone that Summers’ head was no longer secure on his body.

  • When Jerry woke up, he was a quadriplegic with incomplete paralysis - this means that Summers could still feel pain, but was unable to move from the neck down. Duntsch had severed so much in the neck and spinal cord that Jerry was almost decapitated during the surgery.

  • After surgery, Jerry was so unstable that if staff tried to move him his heart rate would plummet and they would have to stop. The nurses and other staffers who took part in the surgery fully expected Summers to have revision surgery. Other Drs note that its critical to reverse the damage to have the revision within hours, but Duntsch refused to do it. Another Dr. did come in later and tried to repair the damage with another surgery, but too much time had passed, and too much damage done.

  • Summers later stated that he and Duntsch had used cocaine the night before his surgery. Despite his passing a drug test, Baylor Plano officials were concerned enough to force Duntsch on leave pending a peer review. While Duntsch was cleared to resume operating while the review was underway, hospital officials asked him to limit himself to minor surgeries until it was complete. Summers subsequently admitted the cocaine claim was untrue, and said he was upset that Duntsch refused to check on him. Summers remained a quadriplegic for the rest of his life; he died in 2021 of an infection related to complications from Duntsch's original operation. I count this as if he had died on the table.

  • Kelli Martin, 55, March 2012- After a fall while moving items in and out of her attic with her husband, Martin had experienced bad back pain and sought out surgery to alleviate it. In the MRI, it was revealed that she needed a laminectomy. Laminectomy: A surgical procedure in which the posterior arch of a vertebra is removed - A part of the vertebra detached from itself and tore off and started pressing on her spinal cord nerves. This common surgery would remove the detached part and relieve the nerves of the pressure.

  • Her husband of 45 years, Don Martin, and a retired Dallas Police lieutenant, dropped her off that morning. "Kelli even asked Dr. Duntsch, 'Have you ever had any bad outcomes or deaths on your surgeries,' and he said , 'No, knock on wood,' " Martin said.

  • During Surgery, She began to drastically lose blood pressure and it was ignored. She suffered from a major arterial injury during a routine back operation. He refused to abort the surgery even after a trauma surgeon colleague and an anesthesiologist warned him about the blood loss. Dr Death updated the family several times during the operation stated that everything was going fine. Duntsch continued operating despite clear signs that Martin was losing massive amounts of blood. He refused to acknowledge anything was wrong, hindering the ICU team's efforts to save her.

  • When Martin awoke from anesthesia, she was screaming and clawing at her legs, forcing the ICU team to reintubate and re-anesthetize her. Kellie Martin's legs were covered in white and pink splotches, a sign that she was bleeding from somewhere. They thought they would be going back into surgery very shortly, but that never happened. The Anesthesiologist noted seeing Duntsch in the ICU standing in front of another patients room while Kelli Martin coded and went went into hemorrhagic cardiac arrest not 10 feet from her room. Martin would become Duntsch’s first casualty when she bled out in intensive care unit. She ultimately bled to death. The pulmonologist informed the family of the loss, not Dr. Death. Dr. Duntsch blamed this death on the anesthesiologist saying that she had bad reaction of wrong doses given during surgery. This was NOT the case. The autopsy labeled cause of death as "medical miscalculation." Before her funeral, the ME called and asked for her body back to do a second autopsy. The report stated that she did not have an allergic reaction. Cause of death was ruled Exsanguination.

Baylor Plano officials found that Duntsch failed to meet their standards of care and permanently revoked his surgical privileges. The hospital initiated another peer review, but Duntsch resigned rather than face certain termination. To avoid the costs of fighting and possibly losing a wrongful termination suit, hospital officials reached a deal with Duntsch's lawyers in which Duntsch was allowed to resign in return for Baylor Plano issuing a letter stating that there were no issues with him. Had Duntsch been fired, Baylor Plano would have been required to report him to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which is intended to flag problematic physicians. He was NOT reported to the medical board or the NPDB.

Duntsch moved to Dallas Medical Center in Farmers Branch until hospital officials could obtain his records from Baylor Plano. Why? His record looked clean. However, red flags surfaced early on, as nurses wondered if Duntsch was under the influence of drugs while on duty. For instance, he came to work wearing the same tattered scrubs for three days in a row. Dall Med did minor outpatient surgeries and no brain surgery or any other major surgeries, but Duntsch would be bringing his remaining patients with him and could be a huge cash cow for them, so they granted him temporary privileges.

  • Floella Brown, 64, July 2012- Duntsch had severed Brown's vertebral artery, and refused to abort despite the massive blood loss. It was literally pooling on the floor. The staff tried to tell him she was loosing to much and according to the nurse, Dr. Duntsch even complained about it at one point as if it were an inconvenience to what he was doing or that someone else would take care of it... almost as if he didn't know how to stop it. He then packed it with too much of a substance intended to stop the bleeding. She suffered a stroke as a result. Hardware was also left inside of her.

In the recovery room, Brown said she felt okay and had visits from her husband Joe, son and granddaughter that night. But by 5 a.m. the next morning, Brown was convulsing and lost consciousness.

  • Duntsch did not respond to messages from the hospital about her, then the next day scheduled an elective surgery on Efurd, his next patient, rather than care for Brown. When he got to the hospital that morning, his third day at Dallas Med - and late, he had initially been rushed by staff to tell him of Brown's condition and that they had been trying to reach him, that she was critical. “The moment he walked in that morning, I immediately got to him and said ‘Look, you need to call upstairs. There’s something wrong with your patient from yesterday.’ It was at first met with little concern, almost like he was blowing it off,” Kissinger said in the docuseries.

  • He didn't even acknowledge the situation and asked if Efurd's OR was prepped, as if he were going to casually do her elective surgery instead. Hospital officials were exasperated when Duntsch refused to delay Efurd's surgery, and asked him multiple times to care for Brown or transfer her out of his care.

  • Later, Duntsch suggested drilling a hole in Brown's head to relieve the pressure stating that would save her life. Not only was he not qualified for and held no privileges to perform brain surgery, but Dallas Medical did not have the proper equipment or personnel for such an operation. He kept telling a nurse, Kyle Kissinger, to go prep him an OR, and the nurse kept telling him they didn't do that there. Dunstch said "I'm a Dr and you're a nurse, you do what I tell you." He told him to go get a head nurse if he wouldn't prep an OR, and Kyle returned with the Medical Director – of which Duntsch got into a loud verbal argument with. The medical director had reiterated that he WOULD NOT be doing that surgery and that if she needed it, he would need to transfer care. He refused. She did desperately need to be transferred, because other Drs said later that brain surgery may have saved her life (as long as it wasn't done by him.) Dr. Duntsch said in his police interview:"I told them if you transfer her she will have brain death and then she'll die, and they transferred her and she died. If they had let me take care of it right then, she would have lived. 100%" Brown was left in a coma for hours and suffered a massive stroke before Duntsch finally agreed to her transfer. By this time, Brown was already brain dead.

  • Mary Efurd, 71, July 2012- This surgery required constant xrays for screw placement while the surgeon worked. Even the nurse could distinguish between bone and tissue on the xray. While operating on (EEFERD)Efurd, Duntsch severed one of her nerve roots during spinal fusion surgery while operating on the wrong portion of her back, twisted a screw into another nerve, left screw holes on the opposite side of her spine, failed to remove the disc he was supposed to remove, and left surgical hardware in her muscle tissue (instead of the bone) so loose that it moved when touched. Despite several warnings from his 6 colleagues that he wasn't doing the surgery correctly and was attempting to put screws into muscle rather than bone, Duntsch persisted. Efurd was left paralyzed. She later recalled waking up feeling "excruciating pain", a "ten-plus" on a scale of 1 to 10. She could not move her legs. Mary would not let Dr. Death near her again. She told staff to "keep him away from her."

  • Several people who were in the operating room for Efurd's surgery suspected that Duntsch might have been intoxicated, recalling that his pupils were dilated. And we're talking about medical professionals here. They know what that looks like all too well.

  • Longtime spine surgeon Robert Henderson performed the salvage surgery on Efurd.When Henderson saw the imaging from Duntsch's surgery, he was certain that there would be legal action, and had the salvage surgery recorded. He likened what he found when he opened Efurd up to the results of a child playing with Tinkertoys. Henderson described Duntsch's surgery as an "assault", and concluded that Efurd would have been bedridden had the salvage surgery not been performed. She require 3 surgeries to somewhat correct the initial surgery.

  • Some red flags From Video from a surgical assistant: "The whole midline structure is just flopping in here." "Virtually everything is not done or done in the wrong place." “Immediately upon opening the patient’s prior scar, I could see a screw penetrating that dural sac from the left side at the bottom. It was just wobbly there. It was like somebody just threw some tinker toys in there or an erector set in there,” Henderson said.” “I had absolutely zero comprehension of how this surgeon could think that he had done the procedure correctly.”

  • Dr Phil's interview with the nurse in Mary's surgery and Dr. Henderson. 4 min.

  • Henderson later recalled wondering if Duntsch was an impostor; he could not believe that a real surgeon would botch Efurd's surgery so badly. He felt that anyone with a basic knowledge of human anatomy would know that he was operating in the wrong area of Efurd's back. Henderson sent Duntsch's picture to the University of Tennessee to determine whether he actually had a degree from that institution and received confirmation that Duntsch, in fact, did. He called Duntsch's fellowship supervisor in Memphis, as well as the supervisor of Duntsch's residency; it was then that he learned about the incident that led him to be referred to the impaired physician program.

  • Raven talks about her experience as a surgical assistant and what it would mean to question the surgeon.

He lasted for less than a week before administrators pulled his privileges. Despite both of his surgeries at Dallas Medical Center going catastrophically awry, hospital officials did not report him to the NPDB. At the time, hospitals were not required to report doctors who only had temporary privileges.

After leaving Dallas Medical Center, Duntsch received privileges at South Hampton Community Hospital in Dallas, and also took a job at an outpatient clinic named Legacy Surgery Center (now Frisco Ambulatory Surgery Center) in Frisco. Of course, he took on new patients and brought others with him. At this time, he also was somehow scrubbing the internet of all negative comments and reviews of him. If they appeared, they didn't last more than a day.

  • Jeff Cheney, Sept 2012: a father to three and grandfather to six, went to Duntsch to try to relieve pain that moved from his shoulder down his arm. “Dr. Duntsch assured me I’d be 100 percent pain-free immediately after the surgery,” Cheney said. “He definitely had confidence.” While there, he damaged patient Jeff Cheney's spinal cord and removed some of it by mistake, leaving him without feeling on the right side of his body. Jeff asked Dr Death if he had ever lost any of his patients during any surgery like the one he was to have and he laughed and told him no. After surgery, he told Jeff that the pain would go away and he would get back to normal. “Dr. Duntsch looked down at me and he said, ‘I don’t know why you’re this way. Everything went perfect in there,’” Cheney said. He had to teach himself how to walk again and can't even pick up his grandkids. He had 10 additional surgeries to try to correct the initial one.

  • Marshall "Tex" Muse, Dec 2012: Degenerated disc disease in his back. Duntsch took xrays and told him he needed immediate surgery and it was scheduled for 3 days later. He later recalled that he read about Martin's death on the day before the surgery, but Duntsch cursed him out when he called to ask about it.

  • During the surgery, Tex had a reaction to the anesthesia while going under and began throwing up profusely. Duntsch had no empathy telling the anesthesiologist to hurry and put him under. Tex heard this. Duntsch left surgical hardware floating between the spine and muscle tissue. He actually never even touched the area of the back agreed upon for surgery. Muse woke up in considerable pain, but Duntsch convinced him it was normal. He then prescribed Muse so much Percocet (2 every 2 hours) that a pharmacist refused to fill the prescription. Muse spiraled into opioid addiction that cost him his wife and his job.

  • Jacqueline Troy, Dec, 2012: During the surgery, Troy’s esophagus had been pinned under a plate near her spine and Duntsch had poked holes in her trachea. Duntsch cut one of her vocal cords and an artery, as well as damaging her trachea. Troy was left barely able to speak above a whisper, had to be sedated for weeks, and had to be fed through a feeding tube for some time as food was getting into her lungs. Despite these mishaps, Duntsch was retained by South Hampton when new owners bought it and renamed it University General Hospital.

  • Pam Trusty, Dec 2013: Told her that he was selected as Dallas' #1 neurosurgeon. Trusty was never told she was participating in an infomercial and believed she was participating in a video about the award. Even though her surgery hadn't gone well, and she was still in pain, he persuaded her to do it anyway. Jeff Glidewell actually went to Dr. Death because of this infomercial. She feels guilty to this day, and her issues were never corrected.

  • Philip Mayfield, April 2013: a professional truck driver for nearly 20 years and had chronic back pain. Duntsch damaged the his spinal cord, drilling into it and leaving him partially paralyzed from the neck down. After undergoing physical rehabilitation, Mayfield was able to walk with a cane and walker but continued to experience paralysis on the right side of his body and in his left arm. He also reported shooting pains throughout his body. Mayfield was taken to a different hospital and received a new doctor, but his spinal cord had already been deformed and the damage was irreversible.

  • Mayfield died of COVID-19 in February 12, 2021, His wife believes it was because he was left susceptible and immunocompromised by the botched surgery.

  • Jeff Glidewell, June 2013: Glidewell had been hoping to relieve back pain he had been suffering with since a motorcycle accident in 2004 and reluctantly went ahead with the procedure after reassurances from his wife, Robin. Duntsch severely maimed him during surgery after mistaking part of his neck muscle for a tumor during a routine cervical fusion, severing one of his vocal cords, cutting a quarter sized hole in his esophagus and slicing an artery. Duntsch stuffed a surgical sponge in Glidewell's throat to staunch the bleeding. However, he closed Glidewell with the sponge in place despite others in the operating room warning him about it. The sponge triggered a severe blood-borne infection that caused Glidewell to become septic. When other doctors discovered the sponge, Duntsch refused to return to help remove it.

  • When he woke he was paralyzed in his left side. Glidewell was left with only one vocal cord. Jeff was labeled as a "No Contact Patient." “I wake up from surgery and I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t feel my feet. I could not move my left arm, I couldn’t talk. I was in more pain than I ever thought imaginable and my wife walked over and she was crying." Duntsch told Robin they had to abort the surgery because he had discovered a tumor, which he thought was cancerous and basically doing the surgery was pointless if he needed treatment for it. What he removed was not cancer, but muscle.

  • After several days, Dr. Kirby was brought in to repair the damage, and later described what he found after opening Glidewell back up as the work of a "crazed maniac". Kirby said, “He was septic. He had a bad blood-borne infection. Puss was pouring out his neck along with saliva. Dr. Duntsch left the sponge in because if he pulled the sponge out, Mr. Glidewell would have exsanguinated, he’d bleed to death, but you know, that’s not any long-term solution. That sponge has got to be removed. You’ve got to take care of whatever you injured.”

  • He later told Glidewell that it was clear Duntsch had tried to kill him. Kirby claimed that it looked as if Duntsch had tried to decapitate Glidewell, and contended that such a botched surgery "has not happened in the United States of America" before. Glidewell was reportedly still suffering the ill effects of Duntsch's operation years later, and has undergone more than 50 procedures to correct the damage. At one point, he was only able to eat small bites of food at one time. Jeff did eventually regain use of his left side, but only after salvage surgeries. He proved to be Duntsch's last surgery; University General pushed him out soon afterward. Glidewell did make a complaint with the medical board, but they told him he needed a police report. When he went to make a police report, they told him that was a civil thing, not criminal thing. Glidewell says he about gave up.

After Glidewell's salvage surgery he performed, Dr. Randall Kirby wrote a detailed complaint to the Texas Medical Board, calling Duntsch a "sociopath" who was "a clear and present danger to the citizens of Texas." Dr. Kirby said "In my opinion, we had a serial killer in our medical community."

Under heavy lobbying from Kirby and Henderson, (both drs had done correction surgeries of his patients) the Texas Medical Board suspended Duntsch's license on June 26, 2013.


What's the difference in a psychopath and a sociopath? Guest discusses.

They lie compulsively and feel absolutely no remorse. Apart from the tendency to follow foolish and irresponsible impulses that sometimes get them into trouble; they are coldly rational and usually highly intelligent. They do not need to repress feelings of anxiety and guilt, because they have no such feelings in the first place.

  1. Superficially charming; “silver tongued”

  2. Self-absorbed and egocentric, entitled behavior

  3. Easily bored, in need of constant stimulation

  4. Habitual liar

  5. Manipulative

  6. Shows no remorse; rationalizes wrongdoings, says people deserve it

  7. Shallow emotions

  8. Lacks empathy

  9. Exploits the goodwill of others especially financially

  10. Sexually promiscuous

  11. Impulsive

  12. Behaves recklessly

  13. Accepts no responsibility for actions

  14. Had behavior problems as a child

  15. Lacks inhibitions

  16. Has no long term goals

  17. Has many short term relationships

  18. No respect for authority, including the law

  19. Thinks they are never wrong

  20. May be highly intelligent, but has no conscience

The psychopath does not merely repress feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame or fail to experience them appropriately; he or she lacks understanding of what these things are. Despite the emotional deficiency, most psychopaths learn to mimic the appearance of normal emotion well emotion well enough to fit into society. It usually works for them because most of us think that others have similar feelings to the ones we have.

Dr. Death Operated on 38 Patients. 33 were injured including a quadriplegic, and 2 died.

The lead investigator on the case later revealed that she wanted Duntsch's license suspended while the ten-month probe was underway so that he couldn't take on new patients and warn other hospitals, but board attorneys were not willing to go along. Board chairman Irwin Zeitzler later said that complications in neurosurgery were more common than most laymen believe, and it took until June 2013 to find the "pattern of patient injury" required to justify suspending Duntsch's license. He added that many board members found it hard to believe that a trained surgeon could be as incompetent as Duntsch appeared.

The board called in veteran neurosurgeon Martin Lazar to review the case. Lazar was scathingly critical of Duntsch's work. For instance, he upbraided him for missing the signs that patients were bleeding out, saying that, "You can't not know [that] and be a neurosurgeon."

The Texas Medical Board revoked Duntsch's license on December 6, 2013.

Duntsch moved to Denver, Colorado in with his parents and his girlfriend opted to stay in Dallas, and went into a downward spiral. He declared bankruptcy after listing debts of over $1 million. He was arrested for DUI in Denver. He got 12 months probation and a small fine. Later, He was arrested for disorderly conduct while beating on the doors of a bank. He was taken for a psychiatric evaluation. During one of his visits to see his children in Dallas, he was arrested for shoplifting pants, and a cart full of food and alcohol from a Walmart.

Kirby and Duntsch get into a days long argument on a website comment section after Kirby sees a comment he made about being such a great surgeon.

In March 2014, three former patients of Duntsch's  –  Mary Efurd, Kenneth Fennel, and Lee Passmore  –  filed separate federal lawsuits against Baylor Plano, alleging the hospital allowed Duntsch to perform surgeries despite knowing that he was a dangerous physician. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a motion to intervene in the suits to defend Baylor Plano, citing the Texas legislature's 2003 statute that placed a medical malpractice cap of $250,000, and removed the term "gross negligence" from the definition of legal malice. The suit alleged that Baylor Plano made an average net profit of $65,000 on every spinal surgery performed by Duntsch.

Henderson and Kirby feared that Duntsch could move elsewhere and still theoretically get a medical license. Convinced that he was a clear and present danger to the public, they urged the Dallas County district attorney's office to pursue criminal charges. The inquiry went nowhere until 2015, when the statute of limitations on any potential charges was due to run out. Part of the problem was being able to prove that Duntsch's actions were willful as defined by Texas law. After interviewing dozens of Duntsch's patients and their survivors, prosecutors concluded that Duntsch's actions were indeed criminal, and nothing short of imprisonment would prevent him from practicing medicine again.

As part of their investigation, prosecutors obtained a December 2011 email in which Duntsch boasted 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." ADA Michelle Shughart, who led the prosecution of Duntsch, later recalled that Henderson, Kirby, and Lazar reached out to her demanding to testify against Duntsch; according to Shughart, doctors almost never testify against each other. In an article for The Texas Prosecutor, the journal of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, Shughart and the other members of the trial team recalled that their superiors were initially skeptical when they presented the case, but eventually found themselves in "overwhelming disbelief" that a surgeon could do what Duntsch was accused of doing. As the trial team put it, the "scary pattern" of Duntsch's actions became apparent to the others in the office, leading the DA to give the green light to take the case to a grand jury.

In July 2015, approximately a year and a half after his license was revoked, Duntsch was arrested in Dallas and charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (the scalpel), five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and one count of injury to an elderly person.

The last charge was for the maiming and paralyzing of Efurd. Prosecutors put a high priority on that charge, as it provided the widest sentencing range, with Duntsch facing up to life in prison if convicted. They also believed that charge would be easy to prove in court; Duntsch had been told repeatedly that he wasn't placing the hardware in the correct position, and fluoroscopy images from Efurd's surgery proved this.

The indictments were made four months before the statute of limitations were to run out.

Prosecutors sought a sentence long enough to ensure that Duntsch would never be able to practice medicine again. For the same reason, prosecutors opted to try Duntsch for Efurd's maiming first. He was held in the Dallas County jail for almost two years until the case went to trial in 2017. By this time, Duntsch was almost penniless, and the judge had to appoint a lawyer for him.

Shughart argued that Duntsch should have known he was likely to hurt others unless he changed his approach, and that his failure to learn from his past mistakes demonstrated that his maiming of Efurd was intentional. Prosecutors also faulted Duntsch's employers for not reporting him. They argued that Duntsch was motivated to continue operating because the lucrative salary of a neurosurgeon would solve his mounting financial problems.

Over objections from Duntsch's lawyers, prosecutors called many of Duntsch's other patients to the stand in order to prove that his actions were intentional. According to his lawyers, Duntsch had not realized how poorly he had performed as a surgeon until he heard the prosecution experts tell the jury about his many blunders on the operating table. Duntsch's defense blamed their client's actions on poor training and lack of oversight by the hospitals. Shughart countered that the 2011 email, sent after his first surgeries went wrong, proved that Duntsch knew his actions were intentional.

READ OCCOM'S RAZOR EMAIL. On our website a Dr. Duntsch's surgical assistant, Kimberly Morgan, tells her story under oath. 7min

After 13 days of trial, the jury needed only four hours to convict him for the maiming of Efurd. On February 20, 2017, he was sentenced to life in prison. On December 10, 2018, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed Duntsch's conviction by a 2–1 split decision.

On May 8, 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Duntsch’s petition for discretionary review. The four hospitals that employed Duntsch have ongoing civil cases against them.

Duntsch is housed at the O. B. Ellis Unit outside Huntsville. He is not eligible for parole until 2045, when he will be 74 years old.


Kimberly Morgan testimony.

Occam’s Razor
Download PDF • 320KB

Full Email obtained from trial above and a patient suit below.

Download PDF • 9.01MB

Sources available at

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page