| Courts |

Dr. Christopher Duntsch, Plano Surgeon Suspended for Killing Patients, Gets Sued for Malpractice

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

All things considered, Mary Efurd is one of the lucky ones. She walked into Dr. Christopher Duntsch's Texas Neurosurgery Institute in Plano on July 25, 2012 and emerged with her life. The same can't be said at least two of his former patients, who died after Dunstch botched their surgeries, according to the Texas Medical Board.

Still, Efurd doesn't feel particularly lucky. She went in for a posterior lumbar interbody fusion, a rather routine procedure that eases pain caused by stopping the motion between two vertebrae. She came out in a wheelchair and with thousands of dollars in medical bills from surgery to fix Duntsch's mistakes.

There were 38 mistakes to be exact, according to a lawsuit Efurd filed this week in Dallas County court, most significantly when he severed an important spinal nerve with a screw. This left Efurd with bilateral foot drop and quadriceps that were partially paralyzed. She is now mostly confined to a wheelchair, she says in her lawsuit.

See also

-Authorities Say a Plano Neurosurgeon Killed, Paralyzed and Left Sponges Inside Patients

Surgeons, just like everyone else, make mistakes, but Efurd, like the Texas Medical Board before her, says Duntsch's negligence was beyond the pale. The lawsuit describes the scene of her surgery:

Medical personnel in the operating room with Dr. Duntsch voiced their concerns about his care and treatment of Ms. Efurd, but Dr. Duntsch did not listen to or respond to their concerns. In addition, concerns were raised by the operating room team that Dr. Duntsch seemed to be "distracted" and "disoriented." At one point, he broke scrub and left the operating room. When he returned to the OR, witnesses observed him to have "lost focus." In addition, certain personnel who were in the operating room with Dr. Duntsch commented that one explanation for his behavior may have been that he was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

When it became clear that he'd messed up, Efurd says Duntsch wanted to take her back into surgery to fix his mistakes. But then his hospital admitting privileges at Dallas Medical Center Hospital were revoked, and a Dallas surgeon, Dr. Robert Henderson, performed the procedure. He offers a 13-page letter, which is included with the suit, enumerating Duntsch's many mistakes and reiterating suspicions that he was either drunk or high.

Efurd is seeking unspecified damages from Duntsch, whose medical license was indefinitely suspended by the state of Texas this week. Nor will she probably be the last of Duntsch's patients to do so.

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.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.