Dr. Death (2021) s01e08 Episode Script

Hardwood Floors

Looking like a veritable movie star.
Don't know how I got
picked, Mr. Summers.
Oh, you were our number
one choice, Janet.
- See you out there.
- Here, Ma.
Excuse me, Jerry.
- Where do you want this?
- Oh, exam room.
- Thanks.
- Okay.
I feel bad asking,
but do you think I could
talk with Dr. Duntsch?
Oh, he's real busy. Can I do something?
It's more of a doctor-patient thing.
Definitely don't want
me handling that stuff.
- I'll talk to him.
- Thank you, Jerry.
Will you make sure your mom's
memorized on what she's saying?
I don't want her getting distracted
- with lights, camera, action.
- Yeah.
Two reasons why patients
normally present
to their doctors for pain
related to the spine.
The first is related to the
peripheral nervous system.
That's called radiculopathy.
Now, normally, that type
of pain is associated
- with depression or with
- Yo, Chris.
- degenerative changes in
- Cut.
Okay, um, let's take a break.
Knock out the patient's
portion. Come back.
Good idea.
Fuck me.
I am so sorry.
You're looking good. Feeling good?
I thought it'd be more professional.
Tell me what needs fixing,
Chrissy, anything.
Kim's all over it.
I know you're in the zone, but
Sarah wants to talk to you.
Janet's daughter. Our patient?
Oh, yeah, that's fine.
Hey. Dr. Duntsch, how can I help you?
Hi, Dr. Duntsch.
I noticed something in my mom's scar.
Like, blue peeking out,
like a piece of sponge.
So I got some tweezers and
Oh, wow. You should not have done that.
Oh, my God. What did I do?
No, it's just a stitch. It's fine,
but look, you should call me
before you go digging around
in there again, okay?
- I did call a few times.
- Quiet on set.
You ready, Jenny?
Should I tell my own story?
Because this isn't my story.
Janet, you look great today.
Thank you so much for doing this.
You did good.
Roll camera. And action.
Dr. Duntsch is one great man.
He is the best doctor I think
that you could ever go to,
and if you're having
the problems that I had,
you know, give him a call
because he'll fix you.
- No God damn way.
- Mr. Duntsch
- Doctor.
I don't think you appreciate
the position you're in.
- Doctor.
- Dr. Duntsch,
I don't think you appreciate
the position you're in.
No, I don't.
I do not appreciate being
locked up in a cage
like a dog for a year and a half.
And I certainly do not
appreciate you telling me
that my best bet going forward
is not just to fire your asses
and hire real lawyers,
but to ask for a continuance.
I need to find someone
to testify on your behalf.
Put me on the stand.
If anybody else tries
to describe what it is
that I do or how I do it,
they're just gonna end up
looking like a bunch of jerks.
See, that right there is why
you can't take the stand.
You're emotionally driven.
And when you're emotional,
you can't control what you say.
Try me.
You are a drug-and
alcohol-addicted surgeon
who was too impaired
to perform surgeries.
Allegedly. None of that was
Like a drunk driver, which, by the way,
- you have on your record, Mr. Duntsch.
- Doctor.
No, you're no longer a doctor.
- You had your license stripped.
- Temporarily.
Not if we have anything to do with it.
And how about that email?
The one in which you're prepared
to become a cold-blooded killer.
I never meant for that
to be taken literally
You wrote it.
So it was just a coincidence
that you wrote that email to your lover,
who also happens to be your assistant,
just prior to killing or
maiming over 33 patients?
It's not my fault!
The anesthesiologists and the nurses
and the fat fucking patients
Fire me, but know whoever
slides into this seat
is gonna tell you a version
of the same thing.
I am trying to keep you
from spending the rest
of your life in prison.
I don't want to.
You've got my deposition,
and you've got my records.
I don't have anything more to give.
The judge ruled you have
to testify in front
How could the emails not be true?
He sent them to me.
The defense has a right
to cross-examine you and confirm that.
You know, I thought the other
side of the world was far enough.
They don't want me there
because of the emails.
They wanna know about us,
about our relationship.
What are they gonna ask?
If it were me,
I would remind them as often as I could
that you two were sleeping together
to establish a conflict of interest.
You mean to call me a whore
who can't be trusted?
I know you're trying to leave
this all behind, Ms. Morgan,
but there's only one way to do that.
This is hostile. She's being hostile.
Do you need her to testify?
I do if I wanna introduce that email.
Can you prove your
case without the email?
Precedent-setting is precedent-setting,
Dr. Henderson. No one's
ever done this before.
Gotta assume every little bit helps.
She's been through enough.
What the hell are you
talking about, Bob?
She was in the O.R.
She was in the consult.
She had to know what was going on.
You ask me, she hasn't
been through enough.
What about questioning his
training and the investments?
And we have the hospitals moving
him around. What? What?
We brought charges of elder abuse.
The only way to prove that
is to prove that he was trained well
and that he knew what he was doing,
the whole time, he knew
he was going to harm her.
Well, what about the drugs?
That would be helpful, but
Fine, fantastic. Drag
Kayla Gibson in here.
Unless Ms. Gibson knew he
was high and was with him
in surgery that day, it's inadmissible.
- This is ridiculous.
- No, it's not.
You came to me to help you stop Duntsch.
We have to choose.
If he's our goal,
then we have to focus
on him and only him.
State, call your first witness.
Drew Sweeney.
- Joe Padua.
- Harold Brennan.
- Earl Burke.
- Elaine Johnson.
Henry Aldrich.
- Cindy Tremblay.
- Stan Novak.
Would you tell us a
little about yourself?
I'm 41.
I work for the Collin County
Medical Examiner's Office.
I worked for a pool company.
My wife, Shelley, was an
elementary education teacher.
Dorothy and I were married 46 years.
Two kids, nine grandkids.
Commercial construction project manager.
Started driving trucks in '98.
Two children both had better
be in school right now.
I'm an air conditioner contractor.
What were your symptoms
prior to seeing Dr. Duntsch?
- Light back pain.
- Lower back pain.
We were decorating the Christmas tree,
and Shelley missed a rung.
- Neck pain.
- Pain in the neck and numb pinky.
- Tingling in my finger.
- Back pain.
Hard to be a mom when
you can't pick anything up.
Broke my back. Motorcycle accident.
How did you hear about Dr. Duntsch?
- My doctor.
- Family doctor.
Website called Best Docs.
Baylor Medical website. Five stars.
Seemed like he knew what
he was talking about.
He told us he was gonna fix her.
That's all we needed to know.
Told me he was the
best in the metroplex.
So it's the day of the surgery.
I had second thoughts that day.
My understanding was my surgery
was supposed to last a couple of hours.
It took four.
When you woke up from surgery,
what was that like?
A nightmare.
I woke up in a nightmare,
tubes coming out of everywhere.
Feeding tubes, drain tubes.
I couldn't move, and the pain
They were pumping me full of blood,
and I didn't know why.
I was sore. I hurt.
- I was worse.
- Couldn't move,
and my wife told me he'd found a tumor
and had to abort the surgery.
It turns out it was a piece
of my neck muscle.
Every bone hurt. I was crying.
I'm sober, so I can't take the meds.
She never woke up.
I went home. I laid around.
Wasn't eating or drinking anything
'cause of the sore throat.
I remember being like I was a baby.
You know, like a baby who
can't hold himself up.
First thing that went through my mind:
what's he done to me?
He looked at the incision
and said everything was fine.
He kept repeating himself.
He kept saying that what was wrong
wasn't related to the surgery.
I knew there was something
wrong with this guy.
Sorry, man. You looked high as a kite.
- Objection.
- Sustained.
Has this changed your life?
I walk with a limp.
I have trouble with incontinence,
erectile dysfunction.
I can't sing.
Not that I was ever a good singer,
but that's just an everyday reminder.
She was the love of my life.
It's hard to get over a broken heart.
Just living one day at a
time, just like recovery.
I can't play with my
children like I used to.
I learned ways to control the pain,
mostly through prayer and meditation.
I sit in a recliner, watch TV,
a lot of medicine, antidepressants.
I miss her.
She was
she was a very very good woman.
And that's all I can say.
Can you tell us how old you are?
And what did you do for a living?
I was a teacher's aide,
and then I worked in
physical therapy for a bit.
What took you to Christopher Duntsch?
I had back pain for years,
and it radiated to the end of my foot.
And I tried all the treatments.
Steroid shots, PT.
Nothing worked.
Before you met the defendant,
had you had surgery?
Mm-hmm. 2008.
A laminectomy.
It helped for a number of years,
but it didn't last and then
my pain management team
referred me to Dr. Duntsch.
How did you feel going into the surgery?
Fine. Good.
I walked into the hospital happy,
and I was thinking,
"This is gonna fix it."
And how did you feel when you woke up?
I was in pain.
I was in pain,
and no one could tell me
what was wrong with me
until Dr. Henderson.
He said that he thought that the
fusion was improperly placed,
and that something was
pressing against a nerve.
He said he didn't want
to wait to operate on me,
so they rushed me in.
What happened after Dr.
Henderson operated on you?
The pain was much better, and I could
I could move my right foot a bit,
but not my left.
So prior to surgery with
Christopher Duntsch,
you had pain, but you
could still live life.
And now?
I wish I could go back to the days
before I met Christopher Duntsch.
Would you please introduce
yourself to the jury?
Randall Parker Kirby.
I went to Rice undergrad.
Baylor for medical school.
Stayed at Baylor for my five-year
general surgery residency
as well as my two-year
vascular surgery fellowship.
I have privileges at every
major hospital in Dallas,
including Baylor, Medical City Dallas,
Medical City Children's,
Methodist, Dallas Medical, Presbyterian,
and approximately 40
other smaller hospitals
and outpatient surgery centers
here in the metroplex.
My area of expertise is
anterior spinal access.
I work with most of the neurosurgical
and orthopedic spine
surgeons here in DFW.
I open up the chest and the
abdomen so they can correct
whatever deformity they need
to correct in the front.
I perform between two to four
of these operations per day.
Five call it six days a week.
I do hernias, gallbladders,
blockages of the legs and
the neck arteries, anyone?
But my area of expertise and
the chapters I've published
have all been on anterior spine access.
And were you called in on a case
regarding a patient named Joe Padua?
Yeah, he works with the company
that takes care of my pool.
I was asked to come in, lend a hand.
It seemed nobody else was available.
Nobody wanted to work with him.
The witness has no way of knowing that.
Oh, I do.
- Sustained.
- Eh.
Did you know Dr. Duntsch
prior to this surgery?
I met him one time before
we had a conversation.
I was scrubbing in on a case,
and he tried to convince me
that he was the best
spine surgeon in town.
I found the conversation disturbing.
I mean, sure, most surgeons
are superior sons of guns,
some would even say yours truly,
but this guy was next level.
I mean, he tried to tell me
that all the surgeries in Dallas
were being performed incorrectly.
And what did you observe
during your operation with him?
An anterior lumbar fusion at L5-S1
is about the easiest procedure
a spine surgeon can perform,
and he just struggled.
I mean, he was functioning at the level
of a first-or second-year resident.
Instead of using a scalpel
to remove the disc,
he just started grabbing at it
with a double-action rongeur.
All right, imagine, instead
of using a pizza slicer
to divide and conquer your
extra-large pepperoni,
you went after it with a
pair of lockjaw pliers.
Not appetizing, right?
Did it appear to you that
there was more blood loss
- than there should be?
- When he was taking the disc out,
he took off a bit of bone
from the bottom of
the L5 vertebral body.
In surgical parlance,
he violated the endplate.
Very difficult to do in healthy bone.
He did the same thing to the sacrum.
When you start chewing into bone,
you get a lot of bleeding.
It's not easy to stop bleeding
when it's coming from bone.
You're just really not
supposed to do that.
What are you supposed to do?
Curet off the cartilage.
A curet is like a scraper.
You scrape off all the cartilage
so you can get a proper fusion,
and then heal bone to bone.
When did you leave the surgery?
Midway, I was called into a
previously scheduled operation.
- Grudgingly.
- Grudgingly. Why grudgingly?
He was the neurosurgeon.
He was in charge.
I did my job.
I did my best to guide
him, and then I left.
In hindsight, I suppose I could
have dragged him out of there.
If there's ever a next time, I will.
- State passes.
- Defense.
You stated that Dr. Duntsch
was operating at the level
of a first-or second-year
surgical resident.
How many years does a neurosurgical
resident typically study?
And would that include his training?
Or lack thereof.
Or lack thereof.
Well said.
Defense passes the witness.
We stand in recess until tomorrow.
We can shift the blame to your training.
My training was some of
the best in the world.
No, it was some of the worst.
What are you talking about?
We'll say you slipped
through the cracks.
You were told you were
good enough to graduate,
but you didn't have
enough training hours.
Your financial ties to Skadden
and the rest of the investors
blinded them to your
- to your flaws.
- Stop.
The entire medical community of
Dallas should have recognized it.
Instead, they simply moved
you from hospital to hospital.
You are erasing my legacy.
Christopher, you're done.
- Fuck you. Fuck you.
- You'll never practice medicine again.
And why aren't you pushing
back on any of their witnesses?
How exactly would I do that, Chris?
I don't know. That's your job, isn't it?
You break them down.
- You tell them they're wrong.
- Chris
You get them to admit
admit whatever it was
that they lied to me about
that messed up their surgery.
- Chris
- You do something to defend me.
The only witness,
the only defense that I have right now
is gonna speak to your narcissism.
Our best bet is to prove
that you never should
have practiced medicine.
Give me this. Please give me this,
and we might be able to save you.
Thanks for being here
today, Mr. Summers.
Can you tell us how
you know Mr. Duntsch?
We were classmates.
Went to high school together.
Lost touch.
Reconnected when he returned
to medical school in Memphis.
What led you to have
surgery with Mr. Duntsch?
Sharp, stabbing-like
sticking pain in my neck.
Did he explain the risks?
He advised it was dangerous.
He promised to take care of me.
What did you do the
night before the surgery?
Watched a game. Basketball.
Then I went to bed around 10:00.
May maybe more like 11:30.
What's the first thing you
remember after the surgery?
I could barely move.
I just kind of started
freaking out, hollering.
Wanting to know what was going on.
And did Chris come and talk to you?
Not at first, but eventually.
And then they took me
in for a second surgery,
and when I got out,
I couldn't move at all.
Do you remember making
a statement in the ICU
that you and Chris were
doing cocaine together
the night prior to surgery?
I wanted to see him.
He wasn't coming around,
and I I was mad.
I made it up.
He was my doctor.
I wanted to know why I couldn't
move. He was in charge.
He wouldn't come see me.
And he was your friend?
Let the record show the witness nodded.
He was your best friend?
Let the record show the witness nodded.
And he abandoned you?
The State passes the witness.
I'm terribly sorry for
what happened to you.
You and Chris played
football together, yes?
That's right.
And did you have some victories
and some not-so-great games?
And how did Chris deal with those games?
Did he always go in and
always try to do his best?
Were you aware that he was
in a fellowship program
studying under Dr. Geoffrey Skadden?
And from your understanding,
was it very important,
what he was doing for Dr. Skadden?
And things like doing surgeries
while he was there under
Skadden's supervision,
that was important to becoming
a successful surgeon?
Did you ever see Chris
get out of obligations
that he had at school?
I felt that way sometimes.
Can you give us an example of that?
Like, something that you saw
or that made you think that?
I can just remember maybe
making a phone call to a doctor,
maybe Dr. Skadden or another doctor,
to say that he had stuff
to do for DiscGenics.
And I can remember them let
him out whatever he had to do.
When you would find out that Dr. Skadden
and/or some other doctor
would just excuse him
from doing things at school
in lieu of staying in the lab,
I mean, did you think
that was a problem?
I never knew that,
you know, what was
happening, and so I I
I don't know what he was missing
or where he was going.
- So I I don't know.
- Okay.
Well, did you ever meet
any one of his classmates,
or anyone who went to the University
of Tennessee Med School,
and talk to them about the rigors
of completing medical school
and completing that fellowship?
I don't remember.
You don't remember anyone saying
that he only got through medical school
because Skadden liked him?
I heard that after you know,
something similar to
that since my surgery.
Do you remember who that was
that told you that or is that
I heard it from a friend who
heard it from another friend,
and he made a comment
that Chris was able to
circumvent the program.
Did they attribute that
circumventing to Dr. Skadden
- or some other doctor or both?
- I don't know.
- I don't I don't know.
- Okay.
I don't know.
- Okay, you said you understood
- I think what they attributed to
is the fact that they had
companies with them.
Well, that was the next thing
I was gonna ask you about.
You said they had companies with him.
They gave all the funds
to those companies.
For him to do the research, right?
Okay, and it was very important
that research be successful
to those companies. Is that correct?
Now, when Chris moved here,
did he cut off all work
with Dr. Skadden and DiscGenics?
Not that I know of.
So Chris came to Dallas,
and he worked at the Minimally
Invasive Spine Institute.
- Is that correct?
- Yeah.
And while he was working there,
he was being pursued by Amy Piel
at Baylor-Plano. Is that correct?
Well, she was interested in having
a successful clinic on the property.
Mm-hmm. All to herself.
Because if he was with Missy,
she wasn't getting all the
fees that he would generate.
So both the chair of his fellowship,
the person responsible for his training,
and one of the largest hospitals
in the Dallas-Fort Worth
area had financial reasons
for ensuring that Christopher
Duntsch was successful.
I'd say so.
Defense passes the witness.
Did Christopher ever visit
you after the surgery?
After you returned home to Memphis?
Once. He came to visit.
What did you talk about?
His baby, his practice.
Nothing in depth.
Did he ask about you?
About what was happening in your life?
Ms. McClung said that she was sorry
for what happened to you,
even though she has no
connection to your surgery.
Has Christopher ever said he was sorry?
Final question, Mr. Summers.
He's here now.
Is there anything you
want to say to him?
- Objection.
- Sustained.
I love you.
The jury will disregard
that last statement.
The State has no further questions.
Would you please introduce
yourself to the jury?
Major Kimberly Morgan.
United States Air Force.
And are you currently out on deployment
in a location you cannot disclose?
Yes, ma'am, due to security.
Are you familiar with a person
named Christopher Duntsch?
Yes, ma'am. I ran the
office at his clinic
and assisted in surgery.
Can you tell us what
the defendant was like?
His demeanor?
Caring, kind,
always very nice to the patients.
He took time to listen to them.
And did that change over the course
of the time you were with him?
Yes, after the event in February 2012.
The event?
Jerry Summers' surgery.
Mr. Summers wasn't
able to use his limbs,
was having difficulty breathing,
and then he talked about
how he and Dr. Duntsch
were doing cocaine the
night before the surgery.
You were ordered to take a drug test?
Myself and Dr. Duntsch.
I took it right away that day.
- Did the defendant?
- Eventually.
It came back clean, and Baylor
reinstated his privileges.
Shelley Brennan would be the
last patient you assisted on?
What do you remember about her surgery?
It's a simple surgery.
In one day, home the next.
This is an email from
to Kimberly Morgan.
The subject is "Occam's Razor."
"Kim, unfortunately,
you cannot understand
"that I really am building an empire,
"and I am so far outside the box
"that the Earth is small
and the Sun is bright.
"Anyone close to me
"thinks that I'm likely something
between God, Einstein,
and the Antichrist
Because how can I do
anything that I want
across any discipline boundary
like it's a playground
and never ever lose?
Unfortunately, despite the
fact that I am winning,
it is not happening fast enough.
What is the problem, Kim?
It is simply that everyone
else is human,
and there's nothing I can do about it.
So I pick and choose my humans
and try to help them.
You, my child,
are the only one standing
between me and the other side.
I am ready to leave the love
and kindness and goodness
and patience that I mixed
with everything else that I am
and become a cold-blooded killer.
The sad fact is, I could
go faster, do better,
catch more honor and respect
by fucking everybody in the brain,
emotionally and mentally
controlling them
in a manner that borders on abuse,
taking no prisoners,
sending everyone in my way,
especially that fucks with me, to hell
for the simple fact that
they thought they could.
What I am being as what I am,
one of a kind,
a motherfucker stone-cold killer.
I'll pass my witness, Your Honor.
I don't think it's morning
where you are, but good morning.
Now, the State is making a
big deal out of this email
they just read.
Did you know Christopher liked poetry?
I found out later.
But you're not surprised by
his his flowery language.
I mean, he sent emails
like that one quite often,
- didn't he?
- Yes.
Do you think Dr. Duntsch
was a cold-blooded killer?
Now, it's no secret that
you and Dr. Duntsch
had an intimate relationship.
We know that involves sex,
but was there an emotional element?
- Meaning?
- Well, among the people in his life,
based on everything you saw
working with him day in and day out,
sleeping with him,
you thought you were pretty close?
I thought so.
Close enough that perhaps you didn't
allow yourself to see the truth?
The truth?
About his abilities.
I don't understand.
Was he a good surgeon?
That's outside my area of expertise.
You were in his office.
You were in the O.R.
You don't have a professional opinion?
Okay, well, after Shelley Brennan,
did you ever work with
Dr. Duntsch again?
- No.
- Why not?
I didn't wanna be in that
environment anymore.
That environment? What environment?
Unhealthy, you know?
You mean the environment
in which patients
were being maimed and killed?
- Objection.
- Sustained.
Just one more question.
If you believed that Dr. Duntsch
wanted to hurt patients,
you certainly would go and
tell somebody about that,
wouldn't you?
Yes, ma'am.
Pass the witness.
Stay safe, Ms. Morgan,
wherever you've gone.
How are you feeling?
If they ask me questions
about Duntsch's training,
I can't promise you
what I'm going to say.
If we can't present our entire case,
the good, bad, everything,
if we can't lay it all
out and still win,
then we shouldn't win.
- You take that call.
- Hey, Ma. Hang on a sec.
Dr. Henderson.
If they ask, answer how you want.
Thank you.
Yeah, I'm here.
We asked you here to give your opinion
on four different cases
the defendant performed.
What surgery did the defendant
recommend for Jerry Summers?
An anterior cervical
fusion at C3-4 and C4-5.
What was the outcome of
Mr. Summer's surgery?
He was rendered a quadriplegic.
Would you walk us through it?
There was a lot of bleeding.
- Suction.
- Suction.
Sponge. Give me a sponge.
How many CCs were lost?
A typical loss is somewhere
between 25 and 200 CCs.
Mr. Summers lost 1,900 CCs.
What accounts for that
amount of blood loss?
Injuring a major structure.
He removed the disc from C3-4 and
C4-5, as he was supposed to do,
and then he removed a tremendous
amount of bone on the left side.
Over a third of the vertebral body.
And in doing so, he lacerated
the vertebral artery.
The defendant chose to go
back in for a second surgery.
What procedure did he perform?
Double action.
A laminectomy in order to
relieve pressure on the spine.
But by removing excessive bone
from both the front and the back,
you're compromising
the entire structure.
In layman's terms?
His head was barely
attached to his spine.
Let's move on to Shelley Brennan.
The surgery Duntsch recommended,
was that a surgery that
would fix her issue?
What was the outcome of
Mrs. Brennan's operation?
She died.
Is that normal for this
type of procedure?
Mortalities are less than 1 in 10,000.
The pituitary rongeur went through
the ligament in the front
and lacerated the iliac vessels
that lie directly on the side.
- So Mrs. Brennan was bleeding?
- Heavily.
Would there have been blood
visible in the operative site?
Sometimes, yes.
It doesn't appear to have
been the case here,
but they should have noticed
a drop in her blood pressure.
Should a neurosurgeon know
that a drop in blood pressure
means there's a bleed somewhere?
It's a fundamental rule,
but the likelihood of them being
able to address the issue is small.
They'd call in a vascular
surgeon for assistance.
But he didn't do that.
Dorothy Burke.
Mrs. Burke had a previous
anterior cervical fusion
at C5-6 and C6-7 that resolved
her symptoms for a time,
but she began experiencing
neck and shoulder pain
that had nothing to do
with her prior surgery.
Dr. Duntsch diagnosed a
disc protrusion at C4-5
and a disc extrusion at the C7 T1 level.
He sliced through the
vertebral artery again.
We've been talking a lot
about the vertebral artery.
Is it common for it to
be hit during surgery?
Exceptionally rare.
- How many times have you hit it?
- Never.
And what happened to Mrs.
Burke after her surgery?
Her heart rate elevated.
She couldn't open her eyes.
No verbal response to
questioning or commands.
And what does that indicate to
anyone in the medical field?
An impending disaster.
What should Mr. Duntsch have done
as soon as he was informed
of that information?
Physically examine the patient.
Order appropriate studies. Scans.
They were ordered by the ICU physician,
which showed she was brain dead.
Where was Dr. Duntsch?
He was operating on Madeline Beyer.
Had the defendant focused
on Dorothy Burke
rather than Madeline Beyer,
would she still be alive today?
Based on what I know
of Dr. Duntsch's approach to surgery,
Mrs. Burke was dead the moment
she agreed for him to operate.
Madeline Beyer?
Mrs. Beyer is the reason
I'm sitting here today.
I I tried to fix her.
One of the screws was
violating the spinal canal,
damaging dura and nerve roots.
How do you know when
you've hit the dura?
Cerebral spinal fluid leaks out.
I found evidence of three
attempted screw placements
on the left side where he put no screws.
The most disturbing part was,
the entire reason he was operating
was to remove the disc,
and he didn't touch it.
What did he take out?
A large piece of the psoas muscle.
He made a portal through that muscle
and stuffed an implant in there.
Is a trained neurosurgeon
going to know the difference
between bone and muscle?
- Yes.
- Mallet.
Would a trained neurosurgeon know
that by malpositioning
the interbody device,
he was reasonably certain
to cause her injury?
- Yes.
- Would a trained neurosurgeon
have been aware that if he
malpositioned the pedicle screws,
he was reasonably certain to
cause her serious bodily injury?
Would a trained neurosurgeon
have been aware
that if he amputated the nerve root,
he was reasonably certain to
cause her serious bodily injury?
- Yes.
- The way the surgical tools were used
in Madeline Beyer's case,
do you think they were used in a manner
that was capable of causing
death or serious bodily injury?
We pass the witness.
Dr. Henderson, Ms. Shughart
made quite the point
that a trained neurosurgeon
should have done this or done that.
You're aware Christopher
has both an MD and a PhD
- from the University of Tennessee.
- I am.
UT isn't some fly-by-night
medical school.
It's not like one of those in
in Guadalajara or Granada, is it?
No, it's in Memphis.
Do you know Dr. Geoffrey Skadden?
- Does he have a good reputation?
- I do, and he does.
And what was he responsible for
in Christopher Duntsch's training?
After Dr. Duntsch finished
his residency at UT,
he came under the
tutelage of Dr. Skadden
for a fellowship training
in minimally invasive spine surgery.
Were you familiar with
the fact that Dr. Duntsch
was doing medical cancer
research on the side
and that Dr. Skadden was
involved in that research?
I wasn't at the time, no.
Should any doctor under
any circumstances
have their surgical training
hours disrupted by research?
Absolutely not.
So a neurosurgical resident or fellow
can't just skip those hours.
The supervisor has to sign
off, no matter the excuse.
Do the doctors in charge of the program
have to sign off that they're qualified
- to go and operate?
- Yes.
Did Dr. Skadden write
letters of recommendation
for Dr. Duntsch?
Yes, he stated Dr. Duntsch
was a satisfactory surgeon
in his fellowship.
Well, had Dr. Skadden heard
what was happening in Texas?
Yes, because he had mentioned
poor outcomes at Baylor
when filling out a credentialing
form at Forest Park.
Do you have any idea
why he wouldn't have explicitly
told these hospitals
not to hire Dr. Duntsch?
Dr. Skadden said that he had
to write recommendations
based on what he'd
witnessed in his program.
He couldn't speak to whatever
was happening in Texas.
He didn't write any more recommendations
for Mr. Duntsch after we spoke.
Has there ever been an instance
in which a doctor was sued for
not writing a recommendation?
Well, that's frightening, is it not?
It is to me.
So Skadden had to sign off on him,
or he wouldn't have been able
to get their credentials?
I mean, Baylor wouldn't let somebody
just walk in off the street,
- start doing neurosurgery.
- Well, I also assumed
they would have reported the
outcomes of his surgeries
to the authorities.
As a matter of fact,
they didn't say anything
negative to anybody.
Neurosurgery is a big moneymaker.
Do you think the corporate
level of the hospital
was more interested in making money
than in protecting their patients?
Yes, I do.
I think everyone was more
interested in making money
and protecting themselves
rather than protecting their patients.
Thank you for the truth, Dr. Henderson.
No more questions.
I'd like to add something.
Anything you'd like to add?
Everyone knows the first tenet
of the Hippocratic Oath,
"First, do no harm".
But there are others.
"I will respect the
hard-won scientific gains
of the physicians in whose
steps I've walked."
He did not.
"I will apply, for the
benefit of the sick,
"all majors which are required,
"avoiding those twin
traps of overtreatment
and therapeutic nihilism."
He did not.
"I will not be ashamed
to say I know not,
"nor will I fail to call
them my colleagues
"when the skills of another are needed
for a patient's recovery."
He did not.
Had I performed any of the 33 surgeries
in the manner that he performed them,
I never would have allowed myself
into an operating room again.
Any one of them.
Not ever again.
The State flooded you
with every possible patient they could,
but Madeline Beyer's case
is the case the State chose
to go to trial on, so let's focus there.
Now, according to the state,
Dr. Duntsch didn't head into Madeline
Beyer's surgery to fix her
he wanted to hurt her
but that's not what the evidence shows.
The evidence shows he
was a suboptimal surgeon.
Now, are we trying to
blame the hospitals?
No. Are we trying to blame Dr. Skadden?
No, but the State asked
time and time again,
what would a well-trained surgeon do?
I mean, what did Dr. Henderson tell you?
He got on the phone, called Skadden,
and said, "Hey, we got this guy here.
"It says he graduated
from your medical school,
"went to your fellowship,
and I need you to stop
recommending him."
And Skadden replied, "Yes, he
did train at my fellowship.
But I don't know what to do."
Because Skadden has figured out,
"I screwed up. I let him out."
I mean, Jerry Summers told you,
he let him out of surgeries
in order to do research.
Now, you don't get to
punish Dr. Skadden.
You don't get to punish Baylor.
You don't get to punish Dallas Medical,
but you have the right to
know what they didn't do.
They didn't report him.
They didn't challenge him.
They didn't tell him
that he was a suboptimal surgeon
who needs to find other work.
If you're a teacher and
the children don't do well,
your principal tells you
you're a suboptimal teacher.
If you're a mechanic
and the cars you're working
on keep breaking down,
you're told you're a
suboptimal mechanic.
If you're a pilot and you can't land,
well, you're told you
can't do this anymore.
Well, Baylor does the opposite.
They allow him to resign.
And then they send a clearing
letter to Dallas Medical,
who hires him and then watches
as three surgeries in
as many days go bad.
And what do they do? Nothing.
They don't report him
to the National Practitioner's Data Bank
or the Texas Medical Board.
They allow this poorly-trained
suboptimal surgeon to move on.
The system broke down
from the very beginning.
Now, I don't envy your jobs.
Both sides have their own perceptions
of of what happened,
but you're the sole judges of the facts.
Render your verdict
according to the law,
not according to emotions
or sympathies or sending a message.
It's about whether or not
the State has proven to you
that a crime was committed.
It was a failure.
It was a human failure,
a systemic failure,
but it wasn't a crime.
On July 25th, 2012,
Christopher Duntsch went into
surgery with Madeline Beyer,
an elderly individual.
He crippled her.
Pedicle screws, drilled and redrilled.
Nerves shredded. Leaking dural sacs.
Muscles hacked into.
These things happened.
But was it intentional?
How do you know what he intended?
You look at what he does
before, during, and after.
He lied, about "this is normal pain."
"This is something new.
"I didn't do this to you.
"It's simply swelling, Jerry.
"Surgery went fine, Madeline.
"It's the surgical team's fault.
Your wives are dead, Earl, Harold."
Look at them.
Look at the faces of the
lives that were ruined.
We didn't bring them to
you to have you convict him
based on sympathy.
We bring them to you
so that you can know
everything the defendant knew.
How many patients should it take
before you know that what
you're doing is hurting people?
One, two, three?
You make your best
friend a quadriplegic?
Four, you kill? Five, you kill?
Should I list all 33?
I want to call them tragedies,
but that implies no one
could have seen them coming.
These were assaults.
We're here talking about Madeline Beyer.
I know you don't have a doubt
that when Christopher Duntsch went
into Madeline Beyer's surgery,
he was reasonably certain
he was going to hurt her.
That's the standard of knowing.
Not that you know 100%,
but that you're reasonably certain.
The defense is implying
it was his training.
He was trained for 17 years
prior to operating on Mrs. Beyer.
Trained at the University of Tennessee.
Trained at Semmes-Murphey.
Institutions with doctors
who would not put their
reputations on the line
by recommending a
poorly trained surgeon.
Don't blame his training.
Blame him.
Don't blame the system.
Blame him.
He went into all those operations.
He put the scalpels to
those patients' backs.
He kept going.
All these people.
If you're a human who values life,
who understands suffering
You heard Dr. Henderson.
One botched surgery, just one,
and he never would have entered
the operating room ever again.
If you don't stop him,
Christopher Duntsch will
leave this courthouse,
leave this city, this state,
maybe even this country,
and he will find a corner of the world
that allows him to
continue hurting people.
Only you can tell him no more.
They don't understand.
All I wanna do is go
back to my research.
You gotta tell 'em, Dad.
I will never practice surgery again.
If they let me, I can still do good.
- I can still help.
- Just stop, okay?
It's time to stop.
We had these hardwood
floors when you were little.
Active, always active. So energetic.
You were so strong.
You would push the furniture
around across these floors.
You never played with toys.
It was always the furniture.
And how many times did I ask you
to stop it with the furniture?
But you wouldn't stop.
You wouldn't stop.
Maybe jail's the best
thing for you, my boy.
You were less dull than
I thought you'd be.
You're too kind, Randy.
Probably blown the whole
case, but nice job.
We could have done more.
We should have done it more.
This is gonna happen again, you know.
Suppose we could do something.
I suppose we should.
Jury's back.
All right, well, we got
time for some hoops.
I wish.
We gonna win?
I don't know.
I'm sorry.
You did great.
Previous EpisodeNext Episode