The botched surgery for which Duntsch was convicted was a spinal fusion surgery on the 74-year-old patient, which took place in 2012. Duntsch was found directly responsible for intentionally harming the patient, who is now confined to a wheelchair because she is unable to walk, and has chronic pain from the procedure. He was said to have placed bone grafts into muscle tissue instead of bone, drilled directly into the spinal cavity and severed a nerve root.
In addition to the botched spinal fusion surgery, Duntsch has left a trail of more than 30 crippled patients who live with pain and disability and at least two patients who died from injuries sustained during surgeries performed by him in 2012 and 2014. Duntsch was stripped of his medical license in Texas in 2013.
Duntsch earned the nickname “Dr. Death” in a story in the Dallas Morning News that chronicled the string of “never events,” attributed to his negligence. These medical mistakes included a patient who died of major blood loss after surgery, another with a sliced vertebral artery that caused a stroke that killed her – even his own childhood friend, who woke up unable to move his arms and legs after Duntsch performed a procedure on him, according to a story in the Washington Post.
Most medical malpractice cases are not like this
The Duntsch is case is an anomaly. He is an individual who had severe substance abuse problems and likely mental health issues that led to his crimes. Most cases of medical malpractice will not feature a drunken, crazed neurosurgeon on a mission to inflict pain and wreak havoc on his patient’s bodies, nor will they incur the criminal charges that Duntsch faced.
Typical medical malpractice cases stem from human error that happens when doctors try to work when they are exhausted, communication errors between physicians and other members of the surgical team, medication errors and anesthesia errors; seemingly small mistakes born of human frailty (or hubris) that end up having huge consequences in patient’s lives.
Physicians must comport with a standard of care for their specialty. When a doctor commits a preventable medical error that breaches the acceptable standard of care and causes injury to the patient, that patient may have grounds to take legal action against the doctor to recover financial compensation for their injuries and the damages they have suffered because of the injury.
If you believe that you have suffered harm from a preventable medical error, speaker to a Washington, DC medical malpractice lawyer about your options moving forward.