Who is Dr. Death? How did he come to be? How did he continue practicing medicine despite hurting a terrifying number of patients? This series unfolded politics with an operating room, hospitals, and law.
A real-life story about a doctor who maimed and killed his patient relentlessly and without guilt.
The story revolves around Christopher Duntsch, a former neurosurgeon who “Intentionally” maimed and even killed his patients. His two fellow colleagues and a prosecutor Michelle Shughart’s journey to stop him and bring justice. The drama miniseries is based on the podcast(by Wondery), with the same name, which covered his heinous crime.
Release date: 15 July 2021
No. of episodes: 8
Genre: True Crime
Writer(s): Patrick Macmanus
Executive producers: Jason Blumthal, Marshall Lewy, Steve tisch and more.
Running time: 43-60 minutes.
Let’s start with introduction of characters and their stories!
Christopher Duntsch aka DR. Death or Dr. D.
From the start, it is very obvious that he is a very obnoxious, extremely narcissist with God complex ( someone who thinks they has been divinely blessed or has an exceptional talent compared to everyone else, that they can perform risks to save someone’s life because they can’t make mistakes. Even if they do make mistakes they can either miraculously correct them or it is the fault of people around them which they then discard to take action upon) and who is in denial of his abilities.
“I don’t have complications”, “The attending interrupted which distracted me”, “I can leave kindness and become a stone-cold killer, and the way he slammed every doctor’s procedure to prove his way of surgery screams an insane amount of sociopath vibes and terrifying negligence. These were some of the red flags
He has said to have performed 37 surgeries, out of which 33 have intense complications and some dead. A neurosurgeon who brags about educational accomplishment all the time, doesn’t accept the existence of human error
Each and every actor portrayed their roles excellently. You could feel their irritation and anger radiating through the screens. Patient’s nervousness, excitement, desperation makes you imagine yourself to be in their or their loved one’s situation. The nonchalance of Duntsch ( By Joshua Jackson), his ability to use charm and threats to remain a doctor and get selected in other hospitals infuriates you to the bone. Dr. Robert Henderson’s (Alex Baldwin) immeasurable patience and Dr. Randall Kirby’s (Christian Slater)relatable impatience and anger take you on a rollercoaster ride.
The show starts with his patients at Dallas Medical. 3 days, 3 patients. One dead, one woken with extreme pain and no mobility in legs, and one is said to be recovering. Dr. Robert Henderson had to perform a revision surgery on Madeleine Beyer, who woke up with extreme pain. During surgery he found out that there were many holes which were from the attempted attachment of screws, her fragments of bone dispersed and piercing main nerves. He wonders what did Duntsch do to her since her bones were completely shattered.
Through his course in Dallas, his circulating nurse, Josh Baker(Hobert Point-Du) consults and preps his OR. He is concerned about Duntsch as well as his patients. He questions and tries to protect patients. You get to see how nurses and everyone else except the doctor is treated with so little respect. Their voice of concern went not only unheard but also was looked upon as an interruption. Although one can understand that surgery is complex and doubts by people around us is effective, but in this scenario, the patients lost around 1700-2000 CC’s of blood and the nurses decided to voice their opinion. How can this be disregarded and the voices getting unheard? How can continuing to operate while a patient is hemorrhaging be ignored when these issues were brought to the Texas Medical Board? How is aggressively asking for a procedure like a craniotomy in a hospital where craniotomy is not performed (SO, they won’t have any instruments to do that and to counteract if it goes wrong isn’t there) okay when the situation could have been handled by simply transferring the patient to another hospital? It clearly shows that his intent was either to cover up his harm and to show doctorly care by performing a procedure
While writing the plot, I preferred to choose “Intentionally” since trained doesn’t just mean only that a superior/ attending is responsible for imparting knowledge. The learner/ resident has the equal responsibility to learn and practice what they have been taught. It also means that an attending, as well as a resident themselves, recognize what are they capable of and what are their limitations since it is someone’s life we are talking about. Just like Kayla Gibson said, he should have stuck to research.
Intentionally, because it is no wonder he knew he doesn’t know how to operate and yet he went on to shut everyone off and to continue operating the way he thought was right, i.e. recklessly treating his patients as mere Guinea pigs with little to no regard to human anatomy.
The series had me completely hooked till the end. Waiting for someone to listen to them, wanting to help them even it took place long back, feeling for each character since they seemed so genuine. I hated Duntsch and how calmly he dealt with everything. I hated how he easily went up the food chain and be unscathed. Joshua’s acting got me for real.
Well, let’s look at it objectively. Before, During and After. ( Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen the series completely)
He “compassionately” tells his patient about how not getting done a surgery could lead to what-nots, boats about degrees to nervous family members, wears the same scrubs with holes to operations. Then, during surgery, he erratically operates, slices through a vertebral artery takes a piece out of the esophagus, damaged vocal cords, intends to remove a disc but in the end, doesn’t even go near it, and perform surgery around the disc. Keeps asking for more follow-up to perform surgeries. But, would never check up on a patient, ignore their calls, and completely abandon them. He even operates on his best friend leaving him quadriplegia, blames others, and abandons him.
Dr. Kirby and his childlike behavior gets me since that’s how most of us would feel in the moment. The face of disbelief he carried all the way is remarkable.
To imagine that he would be still practicing medicine if his colleagues hadn’t reported and taken every measure to stop him, it is truly horrifying to imagine how many more lives he would have destroyed.
I applaud each and everyone who took a step against him and try to mend the system which is so broken. This series was so well made. The storyline was continuous, his behavioral relation between present and past, coldness, and the lives he affected out of surgery world; everything was so well thought and executed.
Seeing the series, might help you understand the world of surgery.
Although, the negativity of Dr. D is the main focus, we can always believe that there good doctors out there and we can ourselves support good ones and protect ourselves from Dr. D by asking questions regarding procedures and not being afraid to listen to our hesitation. Don’t let people like Duntsch affect other doctors whose only intention to save lives and help people. Do not get discouraged to reach out to medical care and do everything in our power to treat ourselves and our loved ones. Just remember to ask, have an open mind to all kinds of people, and be mentally prepped to go for treatments.
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