Don’t go under Duntsch’s knife!


If this man is your doctor, run away. Christopher Duntsch is terrifyingly incompetent.

Duntsch arrived in Dallas in 2010 to start a neurosurgery practice. In the course of the next three years he would work at several different hospitals, earning infamy for his haphazard surgical technique wherever he went, according to the Texas Observer. His colleagues described him in the harshest superlatives: “worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” “sociopath.”

“I couldn’t believe a trained surgeon could do this,” Robert Henderson, another surgeon at Dallas Medical Center, where Duntsch performed several operations, told the Observer. “He just had no recognition of the proper anatomy. He had no idea what he was doing. At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

In one case, authorities allege, Duntsch operated on his roommate and friend after a night of using cocaine. The man emerged from the operation a quadriplegic. In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body. During that surgery, a fellow doctor forced Duntsch to stop operating because of his “unacceptable” technique, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing a search warrant affidavit.

What terrifies me even more, though, is that despite individual complaints from responsible doctors, Duntsch continued to operate for years, moving from hospital to hospital without alarm bells going off, leaving a trail of dead and broken bodies behind him. It took the Texas medical board three years to suspend his license. He’s a scary guy who took advantage of the system.

Fortunately, he’s being buried in a mountain of lawsuits right now, and he’s in jail. He was arrested for shoplifting pants at Wal-Mart. Some things you cannot get away with.

I’m also troubled by one other thing.

He may not be licensed to practice medicine anymore, but Duntsch has remained active in other medical realms. He’s on the board of the journal “Cell Science and Report” from a year-old publisher named MedCrave, which is apparently based in a house in Oklahoma and may be an American “clone” of the Hyderabad, India-based OMICS Publishing Group.

The medical establishment took its own sweet time putting the reins on this psychopath, but the science establishment is taking even longer. If, that is, we can call one of those ghastly for-profit parasitic science publishing houses part of the scientific establishment.


  1. says

    Jesus Fuck. That’s beyond scary. I sure as hell hope he’s banned from doing anything medical at all, including dealings with a dodgy journal. I feel deeply for those people he victimized. Spinal surgery is already scary enough, and these people woke to their worst nightmare.

  2. Matrim says

    In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body

    Huh…so…question: how was he not charged criminally for that? I mean, at best that should be some form of criminal incompetence, and at worst it should be attempted murder. How did he not get nailed to the tree for that?

  3. ck, the Irate Lump says

    And remember this the next time a conservative/libertarian tries to tell you that the reason why medicine is so expensive is because of the crippling danger of malpractice lawsuits.

  4. Artor says

    And Burzynski is still practicing too. WTF is wrong with the Texas medical board?
    Oh right, Texas. They like to watch people die there.

  5. says

    Huh…so…question: how was he not charged criminally for that?

    Probably the difference between knowing that he did it and being able to prove beyond reasonable doubt it in a court of law.

  6. says

    Other doctors knew how bad the guy was. They would have never let Dr. Sociopath operate on one of their relatives — but the general population of patients had no way of knowing.

  7. dianne says

    WTF is wrong with the Texas medical board?

    Do you have any idea how hard it is to get people to practice in Texas? They’re desperate. And libertarians.

  8. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    I will never, ever complain about my numb foot/ back of my leg again. It was terrifying enough having someone perform surgery on my spine, even if repairing a disc is routine. The thought of this man having had access to brains and spinal columns is beyond horrifying.

  9. says

    “Therapeutic misadventure” was the cause of death the medical examiner gave for Duntsch’s 55-year-old patient Kellie Martin, who died during a routine surgery to ease her chronic back pain.

    The lawsuit from Duntsch’s former patient, Barry Morguloff, who detailed “what can only be described as one of the most prolific mass torts involving medical malpractice in Texas history,” is still chugging through federal court as well—but without either Duntsch or Baylor as defendants. They were each dropped from the suit in recent months, leaving Kimberly Morgan, the nurse who assisted Duntsch in his surgeries, as the only defendant in the case to answer for his dangerous work.

    When things like this happen, you know the whole system is rotten. I would hope that no one is ever again allowed cover under “therapeutic misadventure”. I’ve been having issues with the old horse’s tail, and might be facing spinal surgery soon. This is not helping at all.

  10. magistramarla says

    When we moved back to Texas, we found that our primary care physician was in a practice called MedCrave, which had been founded by a neurosurgeon. When it became apparent that I needed an evaluation by a neurosurgeon, she did not send me to the in-house doctor, instead sending me to her friend, who sent me on to the local teaching hospital for evaluation and eventual spinal surgery.
    Soon after that our primary care doc sent out a letter that said that after a lot of soul-searching, she was leaving that large practice and opening her own with her nurse-practitioner friend. We, along with many of her patients, followed her. I had my doubts about that practice before, but now I really wonder about it. It had seemed to me that it was just set up to make huge profits. I think that my doctor saw that, too and didn’t want to be associated with it.

  11. karmacat says

    My question is why didn’t the residency program report him and stop his training. they had to have known he was incompetent. In medical school, I did a rotation in urology and there was one resident that everyone thought was incompetent. Looking back, I wonder why they didn’t stop her training.

  12. karmacat says

    It looks like he did his residency at Univ of Tennessee. A nurse turned him in because she saw him use cocaine the morning before he did an operation. He was sent to a drug abuse program but it obviously didn’t stick. He also thought he was so wonderful he could operate while being high on cocaine. If you are not even a little scared being a doctor then you are going to make mistakes, some of which, obviously, could be fatal.

  13. Pteryxx says

    ProPublica has a project called Surgeon Scorecard. Database here, editorial here:

    Editor’s Note: ‘Dr. Abscess’ and Why Surgeon Scorecard Matters

    We’ve had a remarkable response in the two weeks since we published Surgeon Scorecard. The online database has been viewed more than 1.3 million times by people looking up doctors. Surgeons and others pored over the intricacies of the data and methodology. Some praised it as a long overdue, transformative step that will protect patients and spur change. Others were sharply critical, pointing to limitations in the data and what they viewed as flaws in the analysis.

    Perhaps the most striking response, though, came from one of our readers, the husband of a nursing supervisor at a medical/surgical unit in a respected Southwestern hospital.

    “When my mother required gallbladder surgery, my wife specifically ensured that a certain surgeon wasn’t on call for the procedure,” he wrote. “While I was at the hospital visiting my wife, I mentioned casually to two of her coworkers (separately) that my mother was upstairs awaiting surgery. Both nurses asked cautiously who was on call and when they found out it was Dr. [redacted] … they breathed a sigh of relief.”

    That doctor that hospital insiders protected their loved ones from? The nurses called him “Dr. Abscess.”

    For decades, the shortcomings of the nation’s Dr. Abscesses have been an open secret among health care providers, hidden from patients but readily apparent to those with access to the operating room or a hospital’s gossip mill.

    The author of this email, whose name we’re omitting for obvious reasons, asked his wife to rate the surgeons she assisted every day, and compared her thoughts to what we reported in Surgeon Scorecard. “I randomized the names as I listed them to her, and she hadn’t read about the Scorecard and didn’t know anything about the results. She simply told me her choice for the best and worst and was right across the board.’’

    Dr. Abscess? He had the highest complication rate of any doctor operating at the hospital.

    Surgeon Scorecard marks ProPublica’s first attempt to make data available about surgeons. Like any first attempt, version 1.0 can be improved, and we plan to do so in the coming months.

  14. says

    Karmacat @ 14:

    they had to have known he was incompetent.

    I don’t think this is a case of incompetence, it’s a case of deliberate action. As one of the other surgeons noted:

    At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

    Also, Duntsch says in the email that he’s now prepared to embrace being a killer, and other similar sentiments. Obviously, this is someone with some serious issues, but from the available information, it appears that Duntsch made an effort to damage people under his care.

  15. Numenaster says

    Deregulation, working the way it’s supposed to. Making room for brave entrepreneurs like poor Dr. Duntsch here to follow their destiny and create the medical practice of their dreams. Keeping interfering busybodies off his back, like those jealous posers his fellow surgeons.