A Memphis native who did his residency and worked in the bluff city will spend the rest of his life in a Texas prison. It’s an update to a story the Local I-Team first brought to you in 2014. A jury convicted doctor Christopher Duntsch after several botched surgeries. They included two patients who died, and a Memphis man who is now a quadriplegic.
Dr. Duntsch was once a rising star in the Memphis medical community, completing his residency in neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
“He was one of those people you’d thought you’d be reading about in Time Magazine,” says attorney and former friend Art Horne. “He could have done anything. I mean the sky was the limit for him.”
But issues in the operating room led to an eventual conviction in the court room, and now Dr. Duntsch is the first surgeon known to be sentenced to prison for a botched surgery.
“It was like a nightmare,” says former patient Jacqueline Troy.
In a Dallas, TX, courtroom Monday, one by one, former patients and colleagues testified against Dr. Duntsch, before a jury sentenced him to life in prison.
“This has the appearance that the patients were treated like cannon fodder,” says Dr. Martin Lazar.
A Texas jury recently convicted Dr. Duntsch for a 2012 surgery which put an elderly woman in a wheelchair. At trial, boxes of evidence highlighted other botched surgeries by the doctor, in which two of the Memphis native’s patients died, and several others suffered life altering injuries.
“This is a monumental decision for justice,” says Memphis attorney Jeff Rosenblum.
“Really disheartening and sad but what’s even sadder is the victims and what they’ve had to endure,” says Horne.
In a civil case settled out of court, Rosenblum represented one of Duntsch’s former patients and high school teammate Jerry Summers, who is now quadriplegic.
“No one ever comes back from an injury like this,” says Summers. “I went through months of pure hell in the hospital.”
Local 24 first introduced you to Summers in 2014, shortly after the Texas Medical Board suspended Duntsch’s license.
“Christopher Duntsch tells Jerry, ‘I’m happy to operate on you, I’ve done this a thousand times. I can relieve your pain,’ and Jerry wakes up unable to move his fingers and toes,” says Rosenblum.
Duntsch’s problems began years ago at UT Medical Science Center, when documents show he was sent to a impaired physician program in the fourth year of a six-year residency.
A 2014 lawsuit claimed a nurse witnessed Duntsch doing cocaine the night and morning before a surgery. Duntsch admitted to using cocaine and operating on patients all the time.
“I figured at some point he would get that straight and get straight,” says Horne. “I thought maybe he had gotten straight, but found out later he never did address that issue.”
The Local I-Team sent emails to multiple people at UT Health Science Center but didn’t hear back. Duntsch’s attorney says his client was made to be a scapegoat.