This week marks the fifth anniversary of a Texas criminal court sentencing Dallas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch to life in prison. The notorious doctor, who botched surgeries that left 30 patients injured or dead, became known as “Dr. Death.”
Because of a general failure in the manner in which the Texas Medical Board oversaw the work of doctors in the Lone Star State, Duntsch was able to move from one Dallas medical center after another, racking up injured and dead surgical patients all along the way. While this Dr. Death is a Texas story, the stark reality is that the problem of deficient monitoring and regulation of dangerous doctors is a ubiquitous problem across the United States.
Arguably, Duntsch recognized himself for what he was – is. In an email to an estranged lover, a physician’s assistant who worked at his practice for a time, Duntsch wrote that he was ready to become a “cold-blooded killer.” According to Dallas County Assistant Attorney Michelle Shughart, that is precisely what Duntsch became – and remains.
Texas is a Haven for Bad Doctors
A recent media investigation revealed that not much has changed since the conviction of Dr. Death five years ago. For example, Duntsch migrated to Texas after practicing in Tennessee for a period of time. While in Tennessee, Duntsch faced increasing complaints about his abilities as a surgeon. Although state medical boards in many states have issues with properly regulating doctors, Texas had (and has) the reputation of being of the laxest regulatory environments for medical professionals anywhere in the United States.
In short, Duntsch came to Texas to escape sanctions in Tennessee and because he knew he would have a far greater chance to evade medical board regulation in Texas. And that is precisely what happened.
What is even more alarming is that the media investigation mentioned a moment ago makes it clear that doctors continue to move their practices to Texas to escape professional problems in other states. In other words, Texas remains a sort of medical purgatory in which dangerous doctors are permitted to continue to practice (and endanger) Texans.
As was mentioned, Texas is not alone in having lax medical professional regulation. In fact, at the time he lost his medical license in Texas, Duntsch nearly immediately began the process of becoming licensed in the state of Colorado. In the end, he was not issued a license in that state because he was in jail awaiting trial for charges stemming from his time as a surgeon in Texas.
Will There be Another Dr. Death?
The seeming failure of the Texas Medical Board to beef up its compliance and regulatory efforts begs the question: Will there be another Dr. Death. The answer, according to highly skilled and respected neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Henderson is:
I think the odds of it are pretty darn high.
Dr. Henderson was instrumental in bringing Duntsch to justice, likely saving the lives of other patients.
If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice in Texas or anywhere else in the United States, you cannot rely on some governmental agency to protect your interests. Rather, you need to be as proactive as possible and get a skilled medical malpractice attorney on your side, like a member of the legal team at the nationwide Doan Law Firm.
You can connect with The Doan Law firm by calling (800) 349-0000. We keep our medical malpractice lawyer hotline staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, including all major holidays. We can schedule an initial consultation with a compassionated, dedicated, and experienced medical malpractice attorney at any one of our 40 offices. We can also meet with you at your home or any other location that is convenient for you. A virtual case evaluation can be scheduled with a medical malpractice lawyer online as well.
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