Texas Doctor Sent Email About Becoming “Cold Blooded Killer” Before Allegedly Killing One Patient and Injuring Four Patients

surgeonarrest_0723metDr. Christopher Duntsch is facing both civil and criminal charges over his injuring four patients and killing one patient, Floella Brown. He is also under investigation for at least 10 other botched surgeries. What is even more chilling however is the evidence in the case, including an email where Duntsch writes one of his employees that “I am ready to leave the love and kindness and goodness and patience that I mix with everything else that I am and become a cold blooded killer.”

He also wrote “how can I do anything I want and cross every discipline boundary like it’s a playground and never ever lose.”

The Dec. 11, 2011 email has been introduced to show possible intent in the months before he “intentionally, knowingly and recklessly” botched spinal surgeries. Brown died in 2012. The evidence was offered to oppose a reduction in bail for Duntsch. It worked. Criminal District Judge Carter Thompson refused to reduce the $600,000 bail.

Duntsch, 44, faces five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and a count of injuring an elderly person. The surgeries were performed at Dallas Medical Center, South Hampton Community Hospital and University General Hospital. Police believe that he “knowingly [took] actions that place the patients’ lives at risk.” In one operation, another doctor stopped him from continuing due to “unacceptable surgical technique.” His license was revoked in December 2013.

His attorney had a brutally frank argument for the release. Robbie McClung told the judge “The oath he took was to be a doctor. He screwed it up. He hurt people he was trying to help.”

For his part, Duntsch has insisted that “99 percent of everything that has been said about me is completely false.” Perhaps, but that one percent would still be hard to get beyond.

Source: Dallas News

28 thoughts on “Texas Doctor Sent Email About Becoming “Cold Blooded Killer” Before Allegedly Killing One Patient and Injuring Four Patients”

  1. Tort reform has been a major aim of the Republican Party since the mid-1990s, when cases like Liebeck v McDonald’s – the infamous “woman sued McDonald’s because her coffee was too hot” case – began to circulate in the media, part of a PR campaign by the tobacco and insurance industries to convince Americans that the country faced an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits.

    In Texas, it is extremely difficult to use the courts to hold a hospital accountable for allowing a dangerous doctor to operate, thanks to a decade-long campaign, aided by the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature. Under current law, Baylor Plano Hospital can make money off a high-dollar surgeon like Duntsch without being financially accountable for anything that he does.

    Bryan Blevins, president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and partner in the Provost Umphrey Law firm in Beaumont Texas, said although people have injuries, now they have “fewer rights and opportunities to recover.” “The reason they are not being filed today is either the law has eliminated their cause of action or the law has built such cost barriers to bringing an action that they are no longer economically feasible.”

    Civil trial lawyer W. Mark Lanier says the majority of valid medical malpractice cases have to be turned away.

    The president of the State Bar of Texas, Trey Apffel, was reported to say “To put it bluntly, there’s been a rollback of individual rights and remedies over the last two decades.

    See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/02/texas-legal-doctor-lawsuit-christopher-duntsch


  2. Which is why when it is found that a patient is actually harmed, their legal fees should be added to the award.

  3. Why is capping pain and suffering awards mean that doctors have only their consciences to guide them? The real problem seems to be that court cases can take so long that no matter what the award, it all goes to the lawyers.

    CA is a lawsuit happy state. Shakedown lawsuits are so common that they drive malpractice insurance premiums up and clog the court system. The majority of people believe in torte reform.

  4. Wait a minute. He emailed an employee that he planned on becoming a cold blooded killer, and still was doing surgeries months later????

    Was there any other surgery after a surgeon intervened and stopped him during an operation? What about the nurses during the first surgery in which he knowingly harmed a patient. OR nurses really know their stuff. If a doctor is negligent or, God forbid, becomes a homicidal maniac, it seems likely that they would have observed something.

    It sounds like so many things went wrong for this maniac to hurt any of his victims, it’s tragic.

    Anytime someone in the public trust – a doctor, nurse, judge, police officer, clergy, or teacher – abuses that trust, there is an added element of shock and betrayal.

  5. Paul, interesting question your post brings up. So if someone kills people, and they are diagnosed with a medical condition that caused them to commit a crime (either by disinhibition or a psychotic state), should they be found guilty?

    1. dutchjim – many states have a guilty but insane, or not guilty by reason of insanity defense.

  6. http://www.texasobserver.org/anatomy-tragedy/

    ““It’s a completely egregious case,’’ Leigh Hopper, then head of communications for the Texas Medical Board, told The Dallas Morning News in June. “We’ve seen neurosurgeons get in trouble but not one such as this, in terms of the number of medical errors in such a short time.”

    But the real tragedy of the Christopher Duntsch story is how preventable it was.Over the course of 2012 and 2013, even as the Texas Medical Board and the hospitals he worked with received repeated complaints from a half-dozen doctors and lawyers begging them to take action, Duntsch continued to practice medicine. Doctors brought in to clean up his surgeries decried his “surgical misadventures,” according to hospital records. His mistakes were obvious and well-documented. And still it took the Texas Medical Board more than a year to stop Duntsch—a year in which he kept bringing into the operating room patients who ended up seriously injured or dead.

    In Duntsch’s case, we see the weakness of Texas’ unregulated system of health care, a system built to protect doctors and hospitals. And a system in which there’s no way to know for sure if your doctor is dangerous.

    But in the past 10 years, a series of conservative reforms have severely limited patients’ options for holding doctors and hospitals accountable for bad care. In 2003, the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature capped pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. Even if a plaintiff wins the maximum award, after you pay your lawyer and your experts and go through, potentially, years of trial, not much is left.

    What all this means is that the Texas Legislature has committed the state to a policy of medical deregulation—a free-market system in which doctors can practice as they please with limited government interference. Only their consciences, and those of their fellow doctors, limit them.

    Good work Texas.

    1. Inga – nothing in tort reform stops the hospitals or the medical board from refusing him privileges. You supposedly worked as a nurse, you should know that.

      1. Paul, read the article before commenting. You supposedly taught, you should know better than to comment on an article without reading it.

  7. Drugs?

    Early onset dementia- Lewy body, frontotemporal? Huntington’s disease? All produce anger, personality changes, irritability, inappropriate behavior.

    Something is behind this. He didn’t out of the blue engage in gross malpractice.

    1. dutchjim – I had a friend in college who had been in prison for trying to kill his mother-in-law. At some point along the way they got a full physical and found he had a brain tumor. Once the tumor was removed the powers to be decided he was no threat to society and released him.

  8. Paul, Any decent attorney representing you and your insurance company will offer to settle a serious lawsuit @ your insurance cap to spare your personal vulnerability. Realize, unless you have a lot of assets, a plaintiff’s attorney doesn’t want to go after you, just all the insurance money you have. If the attorney hired by your insurance company offers the limits of your policy, the plaintiff’s attorney will take it.

  9. BTW, The only tort reform I believe should be enacted is loser pays. You know, like the rest of the free world!! And, I don’t believe awards should be capped.

    1. Nick – awards should be capped to the extent of my insurance coverage. 😉

  10. jr conklin, I’ve worked med malpractice cases as a PI for going on 30 years. What’s your experience? All I was saying was the suits would settle. Chrissakes, that’s a good thing for a plaintiff!! How many soap boxes were you standing on when you wrote your mini polemic?

  11. Avoid doctors. Even a veternerian. Avoid hospitals. Do not visit patients. You will catch diseases in there.

    1. BarkinDog – the avoid hospitals is very good advice. There are sick people there and you can get it. Lots of patients pick up new diseases in the hospital.

  12. mr spinelli, why would you assume the civil malpractice suits will not go to trial? because of the seeming hopelessness of a good outcome? granted, only a tiny percent of the most egregious medical “mistakes” and wrongful deaths ever see a courtroom (contrary to what the insurance industry disingenuously whines, raising all premiums from medical insurance to medical malpractice insurance). a teensy percentage of those cases ever receive an award. nationwide, year after year fewer of even the most righteous cases make their way into an attorney’s caseload, being so expensive to prosecute and rarely won. it’s agonizingly difficult and outrageously costly finding a doctor who will testify against another doctor, regardless of the severity of the malfeasance.

    in colorado awards of just about everything are extremely capped. then after the defendant offers a low-ball settlement during mandatory alternative dispute resolution (a.d.r., usually mediation), a plaintiff must weigh the likelihood of receiving a larger award at trial. if not, s/he risks being ordered to pay the defendant’s legal fees and all court costs. obviously, defendant works very hard at, or simply misrepresents, accrual of excessive legal fees prior to mediation so plaintiff is scared witless at the potential for bankruptcy even if s/he prevails at trial but is awarded less than the low offer at a.d.r. this phenomenon was sold to the more trusting voters as “tort reform” and a sure way to lower everybody’s insurance premiums.

    insurance premiums continue to skyrocket. the medical industry grinds cheerfully on, chewing up patients and spitting them out, billing its victims over the moon and leaving them helpless to recover in any way. in this beautiful state, if you are victimized once – left chronically ill for life, in pain, mangled, permanently disabled, etc. – try taking legal action and you will almost certainly be victimized again. [heavy sigh]

  13. Chissake, this could happen in any state. There are sociopaths in every profession and every state. I think we can safely assume the civil malpractice suits will not go to trial.

  14. I don’t think there is something in the water in Texas, but it is a biiiiiiiig state. Malpractice occurs in all states. As does murder.

  15. When I read this story, I recalled the abysmally poor medical care given to my mother, father and sister at the hands of Texas doctors, their paraprofessionals (who often run the show as it saves money) and other providers. The doctors dislike lawyers for some reason and everyone in the health care chain have an attitude that lawyers are bad guys. Where did this come from?

    In Texas, there is a per-claimant $250,000 cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases against a physician or health care provider. The text can be found at Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Section 74.301. Non-economic damages are more “subjective” and include compensation for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Texas does not cap economic damages, e.g., payment for past and future medical care, lost income reimbursement, lost earning capacity and other financial losses that can be attributed to the malpractice on which the lawsuit is based.

    I guess an elderly or disabled person won’t have much in economic damages so yippee for the doctor who is off planning the next vacation or luxury property purchase. Seems like many of the tests ordered and charged to Medicare and Medicare Supplement policies are nothing more than CYA for the doctor. It would be interesting to know how much Medicare or VA money goes into the medical profession in places like Texas. I get the sense that those hefty government payments contribute largely to those practices. All this while the medical-industrial complex speaks badly about government and taxes.

  16. As a lawyer having represented doctors, sued doctors and presided as a judge in medical malpractice cases nothing surprises me about physicians regardless of where they practice. This should also be an object lesson to those who campaign for tort “reform” that places special burdens on plaintiffs and provides damage limit shields for medical providers. When you do that you will attract bad doctors like a magnet!

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