Christopher Duntsch, the Dallas doctor convicted last week of paralyzing an elderly patient during a botched 2012 surgery, is going to prison for life. A Dallas County jury took a little more than an hour to sentence him Monday afternoon.
Duntsch, 45, was stripped of his medical license in 2013 following a series of surgeries that ended with two patients dead, four crippled and several others with surgical waste sewn up inside of them. In 2015, Dallas police arrested the Duntsch on five aggravated assault charges, but he ended up only being tried for injuring Mary Efurd, who was left in a wheelchair and constant pain following back surgery.
Jurors heard from multiple patients who'd sought relief from back pain, only to end immobilized or disfigured by Duntsch. Prosecutors painted the doctor as amoral and willing to hurt patients for cash, while Duntsch's defense team claimed that he was merely improperly trained to carry out the types of surgeries he attempted. Many injuries from his surgery were often due to massive blood loss.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at a press conference that the fact that Duntsch continued to perform surgeries after causing so many injuries elevated his case from mere malpractice to criminal assault. "He obviously knew at some point that what he was doing was criminal," Johnson said.
Prior to practicing in Dallas, Duntsch was a doctor in Tennessee. There, prosecutors said, multiple patients sued him, leaving him in tremendous debt. "We think that he saw dollar signs as a way to eliminate his debt from school and from lawsuits ... and to live the high life," Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Martin said. "That's what's so great about today's sentence, he can't harm anyone else anywhere in America."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.