Wondery’s popular true crime series “Dr. Death” chronicles the case of convicted former neurosurgeon, Dr. Christopher Duntsch. The doctor who once confidently claimed to be the best spinal surgeon in Texas was sentenced for causing many patients’ deaths, botching operations, and causing irreversible damage and harm to those he operated on. From 2011 to 2013, he bounced from hospital to hospital, causing a litany of issues. For hospitals, it was easier for administration to simply let him go rather than proceed with the lengthy and costly process of reporting Duntsch and having his license revoked.
Two doctors, Dr. Robert Henderson and Dr. Randall Kirby, caught on to Duntsch’s disastrous practices and rallied to stop him from inflicting further harm. They hoped for justice to be served. This took years, as both doctors’ stories are recounted in the podcast’s episodes.
What happens when you’re in severe pain and think the operation that will put you out of your misery is actually a death sentence? And placing your faith in the hands of a medical professional you thought you trusted actually ruins your life? Many patients woke up from surgery in extreme pain, some were horrified to learn they were now paralyzed, and others went in for second surgeries with Duntsch. He even operated on his best friend who became a post-surgery quadriplegic.
Hosted by medical journalist Laura Beil, previous patients are interviewed in the episodes. Laura spoke with Duntsch’s former business partner who reported finding drugs in his office. An episode interviewed Kimberly Morgan, Dr. Duntsch’s former medical assistant and girlfriend. During the trial, rambling emails from Duntsch to Kimberly were handed over. She said they were lengthy and erratic in nature. In an email, Duntsch said he was “ready to become a cold-blooded killer” and that he did not play by the rules. Listeners also learn what he was like in school. We hear about his unusual behavior, and several guests explain the self-ruined business endeavor he worked on prior to opening his full-time surgical practice.
The “Dr. Death” podcast was recently adapted for TV on Peacock. Recent episodes of the podcast featured cast members from the TV show interviewing the real-life people their characters are based on. Christian Slater interviewed Dr. Randall Kirby. AnnaSophia Robb interviewed Dallas District Attorney Michelle Shughart. A recent panel discussion with Laura and the cast is also available to stream.