A series of botched surgeries has resulted in a life sentence for a Texas neurosurgeon. In an unusual case of possible malpractice turned into possible criminal deviance, this case begs the question, “when it comes to surgical errors, where is the line between malpractice and malice”?
Background and Case Information
Neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch was indicted on charges of malpractice and injury to an elderly person after records showed major surgical errors. Duntsch was accused of improperly placing spinal plates and screws, cutting through a patient’s vein, leaving a sponge inside a patient, operating on the wrong body part, and causing nerve damage. The results of these botched surgeries were devastating for patients and their families.
According to prosecutors, the negligent surgical behavior resulted in at least two deaths, maiming of four others, and numerous other injuries. In total, 32 patients have been identified as being affected by his actions.
Prosecutors alleged that Duntsch’s actions in 2012 and 2013 amounted to “intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly” harming patients. This case is being heralded as “historic” because most cases involving doctor or surgeon wrongdoing result in medical malpractice lawsuits rather than criminal investigations. Due to the extent of the damage caused, prosecutors determined that the best way to pursue justice for the families involved was to file criminal charges.
Swift Guilty Verdict
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from patients and their families, including one victim whose botched surgery left her dependent on a wheelchair. Victims consistently testified that they were maimed on purpose. Their stories were heart wrenching.
It only took four hours of deliberating for the jury to find Duntsch guilty of intentionally causing bodily injury to an elderly person. It took only an hour more for them to sentence him to the maximum penalty – life in prison. Victims have expressed their relief that Duntsch will no longer be able to harm patients.
When doctors or surgeons behave negligently, their actions extend far beyond themselves. Not only are patients injured, but their loved ones are often left to sort through the mess of physical and emotional trauma. Because of the complex nature of medical malpractice laws, it is always advisable to contact an attorney before filing a lawsuit or pursuing criminal charges.
A skilled medical malpractice attorney can help you decide the best course of action for your case, and will stand by your side throughout the legal process. Contact Brown Wharton & Brothers today to learn more about medical malpractice laws and your rights.
Malpractice, Malice, or Both?
When it comes to negligent healthcare, it can be difficult to find the line between malpractice and malice. Any doctor or surgeon can make an honest mistake, which may not be the result of malpractice or malice. In other cases, negligence is the cause of mistakes, with errors being caused by:
- Inadequate planning
- Substance or alcohol use
- Failure to properly monitor vitals or anesthesia
- Lack of communication
- Unsanitary operating rooms
Further, there are the unfortunate instances where a doctor or surgeon knowingly harms patients or acts out of malice. These are among the most devastating cases.
In the case of Duntch, his attorneys contend that he is not a criminal, but rather is simply a “lousy surgeon” who committed malpractice while working in chaotic operating rooms in Dallas and surrounding areas. Some might consider such a statement an admission of guilt, others may consider it a plea for compassion for an incompetent surgeon. In either case, Duntsch is facing the most serious of consequences for the botched surgeries he performed.
Getting Justice for Injured Patients
Of course, not all medical malpractice cases end up in criminal court. What this story illustrates is the serious nature of medical negligence and its consequences for all parties involved. Further, it highlights just how seriously the Texas legal system takes accusations of medical malpractice.
Surgical errors like those committed by Duntsch are considered “never events” because they should never happen. They are preventable injuries caused by negligence and are completely unacceptable. Unfortunately, many patients and their families are unsure of how to report malpractice or negligence, or if they should even try. In either case, the best way to start is to talk to an attorney and find out more about your case and your legal rights.
At Brown Wharton & Brothers, we are dedicated to getting justice for injured patients. Our attorneys have successfully litigated numerous medical malpractice and negligence claims, including cases involving botched surgeries. To find out more about your rights as a patient, Texas medical malpractice laws, and your options for pursuing justice, contact our office today.
We offer every client a free case review with one of our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys. Fill out our online form to take the first step toward healing and getting the justice you deserve.