Convicted of maiming, killing 30+ patients, Dr. Christopher Duntsch loses appeal — 5 insights

Written by Angie Stewart | December 14, 2018 | Print  |

Former neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, MD, who was convicted of maiming and killing more than 30 patients, lost his appeal and will remain in prison, D Magazine reports.

Here's what you should know:

1. Nicknamed "Dr. Death," Dr. Duntsch is the first physician convicted for aggravated assault related to care provided in the operating room. Prosecutors identified an estimated three dozen patients who were harmed under Dr. Duntsch's care. He was charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of injuring an elderly patient.

2. Dr. Duntsch's patient — Mary Efurd, 53 — woke up in severe pain after undergoing an operation to have two vertebrae fused. Another neurosurgeon asked to perform corrective surgery testified the spinal fusion hardware was left in her muscle, the nerve root was severed, her spine was riddled with screw holes and a screw was lodged in another nerve root.

3. After Dr. Duntsch was convicted in the case, his defense appealed on the grounds that the state failed to prove a culpable mental state beyond a reasonable doubt, the state used testimony from other procedures to secure the conviction, and the state improperly entered a drug-referencing email into evidence.

4. Justices Douglas Lang and Robert Filmore affirmed Dr. Duntsch's conviction Dec. 10, while Justice David Schenck dissented. The two that affirmed the conviction found a reasonably educated neurosurgeon like Dr. Duntsch would have likely known about certain risks and said the email in question helped the jury understand Dr. Duntsch's intent. Evidence from cases other than Ms. Efurd's helped prove Dr. Duntsch knew what he was doing, they ruled.

The dissenting justice questioned whether the evidence presented in court was enough to prove culpable mental state and intent, rather than only criminal negligence.

5. Dr. Duntsch's life sentence will likely stand, but he has until Dec. 25 to appeal further.

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