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Christopher Daniel Duntsch (born April 3, 1971)[1] is a former neurosurgeon who has been nicknamed Dr. D. and Dr. Death[2] for gross malpractice resulting in the death and maiming of several patients while working at Baylor Plano and Dallas Medical Center.[3] Duntsch was convicted of various crimes on February 20, 2017, and sentenced to life in prison.

Christopher Daniel Duntsch
Born (1971-04-03) April 3, 1971 (age 48)
Alma materUniversity of Tennessee Health Science Center
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment
Imprisoned atO. B. Ellis Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice



Duntsch completed the MD/PhD program and neurosurgery residency program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center,[3] and subsequently completed a spine fellowship program there as well. [4]


Duntsch began operating in Texas in 2010.[5] He moved to Dallas to work at Baylor Plano. After several botched surgeries, he resigned and left for Dallas Medical Center, where he was employed for less than a week before he was dismissed by administrators after the death of another patient.[4] There is no information available indicating what investigation the state licensing agency did, or if the hospital notified the Texas Medical Board.

Afterward, he received a job at an outpatient clinic named Legacy Surgery Center. At this same time, Methodist Hospital in Dallas reported him to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Even after this report, Duntsch was hired by University General Hospital in Dallas. He finally stopped operating after his medical license was revoked in 2013.[6]

According to court documents, he was suspected of being under the influence of cocaine while operating during his fourth year of residency. He was sent to an impaired physicians program and then he was allowed to return to his residency program.[7] Duntsch was accused and later convicted of maiming four patients and killing two others.[8]

In December 2011, according to court proceedings, he emailed a colleague, saying "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."[9]

Medical license revocation and criminal convictionEdit

In March 2014, three former patients of Duntsch - Mary Efurd, Kenneth Fennel, and Lee Passmore - filed separate Federal Court suits against Baylor Plano, alleging that Baylor allowed Duntsch to perform surgeries despite knowing that he was a dangerous physician.[10] 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, along with the statute's removal of 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.[11]

In 2017, he was convicted of a first degree felony in the maiming of Mary Efurd during a spinal fusion surgery.[12][7]

Life imprisonmentEdit

In July, 2015, approximately a year and a half after his license was revoked, Dr. Duntsch was arrested in Dallas County and faced five felony counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and one count of injury to a child, elderly or disabled person.[13] Following a jury trial, he was convicted on the latter count and on February 20, 2017 he was sentenced to life in prison.[14][15] His defense blamed poor training and control by the hospitals.[14]

All four hospitals that employed Duntsch have an ongoing civil case against them.[14] On December 11, 2018, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed Duntsch's conviction by a 2-1 split decision.[16] On May 8, 2019, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Duntsch’s petition for discretionary review.[17]


The conviction of Duntsch was one of the first prison sentences given for malpractice, and has been called a precedent-setting case.[18] The office of the district attorney prosecuting the case called it "a historic case with respect to prosecuting a doctor who had done wrong during surgery."[19]

The director of neurosurgery at UT Southwestern, Carlos Bagley, testifying for the defense, said that “the only way this happens is that the entire system fails the patients."[3]

In popular cultureEdit

On September 4, 2018, the podcast production company Wondery Media launched the 6-episode series Dr. Death, which was written, produced, and hosted by reporter Laura Beil.[20][21]

To date, as of May 23, 2019, there have been 4 additional update episodes, interviewing those affected by Duntsch's case.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Christopher Duntsch Indictments". Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  2. ^ Goodman, Matt (November 2016). "Dr. Death - D Magazine". D Magazine. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  3. ^ a b c Eiserer, Tanya (February 13, 2017). "Dr. Duntsch defense expert: "The only way this happens is the entire system fails the patients"". WFAA. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Swanson, Doug J. (March 1, 2014). "Plano's Baylor hospital faces hard questions after claims against former neurosurgeon". Dallas News. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  5. ^ Martin, Naomi (August 21, 2015). "Surgeon who wrote of becoming killer is denied bail reduction". Dallas News. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Beil, Laura (2018-10-02). "A Surgeon So Bad It Was Criminal". ProPublica. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  7. ^ a b "Barry Morguloff's suit against the Baylor Health Care System" (PDF). The Texas Observer. March 25, 2014. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  8. ^ "Former Neurosurgeon Faces Life In Prison After Guilty Verdict". CBS Dallas / Fort Worth. February 14, 2017. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  9. ^ "Assault trial begins for Dallas surgeon who once wrote of becoming 'cold blooded killer'". Dallas News. 2 February 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  10. ^ Solomon, Dan (March 27, 2014). "Greg Abbott Enters Fray in Lawsuits Involving "Sociopath" Doctor". Texas Monthly. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Swanson, Doug J. (March 2014). "Abbott sides with Baylor hospital in neurosurgeon lawsuit". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  12. ^ Andrews, Travis M. (February 16, 2017). "Texas neurosurgeon nicknamed 'Dr. Death' found guilty of maiming woman during surgery," The Washington Post, retrieved February 21, 2017.
  13. ^ "What you need to know about 'Dr. Death,' Dallas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch," Dallas News, September 20, 2018, retrieved September 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c "Former neurosurgeon sentenced for purposely maiming patients". CBS News. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  15. ^ Eiserer, Tanya (February 21, 2017). "Doctor convicted of botched surgery gets life in prison," USA Today, retrieved February 21, 2017.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Case Detail". Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  18. ^ "Texas Jury Imposes Life Sentence on Neurosurgeon | The Daily Voice". 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  19. ^ "Former neurosurgeon sentenced for purposely maiming patients". CBS News. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  20. ^ McDonell-Parry, Amelia; McDonell-Parry, Amelia (2018-09-04). "'Dr. Death': Inside 'Dirty John' Follow Up". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  21. ^ Messman, Lauren (4 September 2018). "Horrifying New Podcast 'Dr. Death' Tells the True Story of a Killer Surgeon". Vice. Retrieved 14 October 2018.

External linksEdit