The lowdown on the Dr. Death Podcast
We’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital, We trust the system. Dr. Christopher Duntsch was a neurosurgeon who radiated confidence. He claimed he was the best in Dallas. If you had back pain, and had tried everything else, Dr. Duntsch could give you the spine surgery that would take your pain away. But soon his patients started to experience complications. And all they had to protect them was a system ill equipped to stop the madness.
From Wondery, the network behind the hit podcast Dirty John, DR. DEATH is about a medical system that failed to protect these patients at every possible turn. Reported and hosted by Laura Beil.
Dr. Death Podcast
Much like Dirty John, Dr. Death features a villain walking unnoticed among us.
Sarah: The travesty of this entire story is that hospitals and medical boards could have stopped Dr. Death. The story delves into the bureaucracy of hospitals and the red tape when it comes to doctors, lawsuits & standards of care. It’s ridiculous & infuriating, but it is the reality.
Jessica: The scariest part of this story to me is that this happened so recently and that none of the regulations we have in place stopped a person who seemingly had no idea how to perform surgery. As regular people, we have to put total trust in doctors and the medical system with our lives.
Who Is At Fault?
Jessica: There were so many people that could have stopped Dr. Duntsch along the way. He should have performed more surgeries in med school, he should have been reported by hospitals and doctors for his mistakes, but everyone was more interested in covering themselves and were not willing to risk turning him in.
Sarah: Baylor Plano Hospital knew this guy was a total fraud and seemingly did nothing to stop him. Kind of like a “not my problem” type of scenario. That, in the words of Vizzini from The Princess Bride, “is inconceivable!” Rather than going through the formal process of removing this doctor from medicine, they let him go on to massacre other patients.
Jessica: It is absolutely unreal to me that this guy performed surgery on so many patients for so long. It doesn’t sound like he did one thing right! Dr. Christopher Duntsch not only maimed and killed people, but he also had obvious problems with alcohol and cocaine. He skirted punishment over and over again.
How Did This Happen?
Sarah: I’m a Physical Therapist & I know a thing or two about anatomy and physiology. Listening to the details regarding exactly what this guy did in the surgeries makes my stomach turn. I imagine that it had to be obvious to trained eyes that not only did he make life threatening and life ending mistakes, but that his behavior was so bizarre and grossly negligent that he should have been stopped much sooner.
Jessica: Absolutely. This story is about so much more than a bad doctor. It is about what it takes to stop a bad doctor. Although I understand that due process is important, with that many injured patients, it is difficult to see any way he was able to keep practicing.
Sarah: The whole story is devastating. The truly scary part is that you know there could be other Dr. Death’s running around.
Sarah: We are Really Into This podcast! As soon as I listened to it, I sent it to Jessica so she could catch up! A few other friends gave it a shot & they are hooked as well.
Jessica: This podcast is number one on iTunes for a reason. We are all vulnerable to the medical system, and to think that we could go in for surgery and come out worse off or even dead, is a real nightmare. While there were some issues with the narrative structure of the podcast, it is well done and intensely interesting. I am Really Into It.
Laura Beil has more than 20 years of experience in health and science writing. She has received medical journalism awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She began her career in newspapers, and was the longtime medical reporter for the Dallas Morning News. In 2006, She left the world of daily journalism to write mostly for magazines. She is a contributor at Men’s Health, and a correspondent for Science News magazine. While she specializes in matters of health and science, she has also written about gun-toting liberals for D Magazine, and was the writer-reporter of the “Thugs” episode for the NPR series This American Life. She grew up in the piney woods of East Texas, but now lives outside Dallas.