Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

To the Extreme - Doctor Sentenced to Life Behind Bars

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jan 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

When a health care provider is found guilty of committing medical malpractice, the outcome for the provider usually involves the payment of damages and, in some cases, the suspension or loss of their medical license. However, in a rare occurrence, a doctor in Dallas was recently sentenced to life in prison for the negligence that he displayed in the operating room, after injuring multiple victims.

Neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch is the first physician in the United States to be convicted for behavior inside the operating room. The results of his operations were so far below the accepted standard of care that a grand jury indicted him on five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as a single count of harming an elderly patient.

Duntsch practiced medicine at various hospitals in Dallas and Collin counties. His career in Texas started at Baylor Regional Medical Center even after having had a patient bleed to death during a surgery. Later, at Dallas Medical Center, a woman died of a stroke after Duntsch performed an operation. All in all, more than 30 patients were identified at four hospitals as having been harmed by Duntsch in just an 18-month span.

During the trial, several former patients gave testimony. Duntsch's former patient, Philip Mayfield, spoke about how he hasn't been able to watch his son's sports games because he now suffers from chronic pain. Former patient Barry Morguloff gave testimony regarding his now permanent limp due to nerve damage suffered at the hands of Duntsch. Jeff Cheney, gave testimony that he woke up paralyzed from the neck down on his right side after being operated on by Duntsch. One by one, horror story after horror story, former patients sought redemption by spoken words against the man that caused their permanent disabilities.

A doctor who treated one of Duntsch's patients stated that Duntsch had "done virtually everything wrong" after finding implants placed in muscle instead of on bone, a screw drilled into the patient's spinal cavity and a nerve root that had been amputated.

Duntsch provided an argument that he was distracted in chaotic operating rooms and that he did the best he could during his surgeries but it wasn't enough to sway the 12-person jury.

Prosecutor Michelle Shugart wondered why Duntsch could not simply stop performing surgeries. She answered who own question when presenting to the jury, claiming that Duntsch could not stop harming people for many reasons, including the fact that he owed people a lot of money and wanted to live the high life.

Most doctors found guilty of medical negligence find themselves in a situation where a mistake led to a terrible result. The jury in the Duntsch case felt that the former doctor was in a rare position of simply not caring who, or how badly, he injured.

Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician's neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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