INSIDE EDITION Investigates - Was A Dallas Surgeon Stoned When He Maimed His Patients?
It’s a scary statistic but recent studies estimate that 10% of all doctors and health practitioners will fall into drug or alcohol abuse at some point in their lives.
Dr. Christopher Duntsch once boasted that he was the best neurosurgeon in all of Dallas, but today his former patients are calling him a “monster,” a “drug addict,” and a “psychopath.” One of his colleagues even compared him to a “serial killer,” after he observed Dr. Duntsch’s work in the operating room.
Speaking exclusively to INSIDE EDITION, nine of Dr. Duntsch’s ex-patients say he maimed them during botched surgeries that left many of them in horrendous pain and some even partially paralyzed.
“He took away my life, my freedom, my independence,” said Mary Efurd who is now forced to use a wheel chair thanks to what she calls Dr. Duntsch’s incompetence.
Like Efurd, Ken Fennell is also now in a wheel chair after Dr. Duntsch operated on him to relieve back pain. But instead of any relief, Ken says he’s now in more pain than ever.
In court papers, Fennell and his attorney, Kay Van Wey, call Dr. Duntsch "an egomaniac, mentally ill, an alcoholic, drug addict or a combination thereof."
In several lawsuits, Van Wey and other attorneys representing Dr. Duntsch’s former patients have raised allegations that Dr. Duntsch had a “long history of alcohol abuse, recreational drug use, including use of cocaine proximate to his treatment of patients.”
“For example, in Duntsch’s residency program, he was reported for having used cocaine hours before participating in surgery,” attorney Jim Girards alleges on behalf of his client Lee Passmore.
Passmore say he never had the crippling nerve spasms he suffers from today until Dr. Duntsch needlessly removed part of his spine during a procedure to relieve back pain.
“It feels like someone planted an ice-pick squarely in my back,” said Passmore while describing his chronic pain.
“There is one report that he spent an entire night doing cocaine at a party and then when the sun came up he put on his scrubs and went off to the hospital to treat children,” Girards told INSIDE EDITION.
In a lawsuit, Girard also alleges that Dr. Duntsch “kept drug paraphernalia” and “a gallon of vodka” under his desk at his office.
And Passmore isn’t the only patient who says Dr. Duntsch removed a portion of their spinal cord by mistake.
“When I woke up after surgery I found the right side of my body was paralyzed. I was horrified, I was speechless,” said Jeff Cheney.
Today, Cheney suffers from a terrible limp, but at least he can walk. One of Duntsch’s patients is now a quadriplegic and two of his other patients died of massive blood loss after he operated on them.
But it doesn’t end there. Jacqueline Troy and Jeff Glidewell both say they almost lost their voices entirely thanks to Dr. Duntsch’s handiwork.
“I'm down to one vocal cord,” said Troy in a voice barely above a whisper. Her vocal chords were paralyzed by Dr. Duntsch – an unheard of complication that almost killed her.
“They didn’t know if I would survive,” stated Troy.
Glidewell says Dr. Duntsch mistook his esophagus for a tumor and sliced into it. “He stuck a sponge in the hole of my esophagus and sewed me up,” Glidewell hoarsely tried to explain.
And that sponge? Dr. Duntsch left it inside his throat.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Henderson was brought in to repair, as best he could, the damage to some of these patients.
“This is almost literally a serial killer,” Dr. Henderson told INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero.
“A serial killer? Do you think that's a fair description?” asked Guerrero.
“Absolutely. That's how egregious this surgery was,” declared Dr. Henderson.
When Van Wey, who represents more than a dozen of Dr. Duntsch's patients, grilled him during a deposition two weeks ago, Dr. Duntsch made for a reluctant witness.
“Were you ever under the influence of cocaine when you treated patients?” asked Van Wey.
Duntsch replied, “I take the fifth.” Over and over again, the doctor continued to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights.
Guerrero caught up with Dr. Duntsch outside Denver, where he now lives and, “Do you have a drug and alcohol problem, sir?”
“No ma’am, never have,” he answered.
Guerrero asked, “Can you explain then what happened during those surgeries, please sir?”
“I would rather discuss those in a formal venue with the board or in a medical malpractice setting,” replied Dr. Duntsch.
“I talked to one doctor who compared you to a serial killer. Do you have any response to that?” asked Guerrero.
Duntsch replied, “Yes. I will deal with that in the context of libel later when I defend myself.”
The Texas medical board has revoked his license but his patients all say there's a more fitting punishment.
“He needs to go to jail!” said Effurd. Her sentiment was echoed by the eight other patients INSIDE EDITION spoke to.
But Dr. Duntsch apparently has other plans.
“Are you planning to try and practice medicine again?”
Duntsch replied, “Yes.”
Dr. Duntsch denies any wrongdoing and plans to fight all the allegations of malpractice. He is eligible to re-apply for his medical license as early as this December.