Cases in which doctors cause harm to patients usually come under the remit of the civil law when the victims or their families being wrongful death lawsuits.
But a former Plano neurosurgeon is being dealt with under the criminal law after he is accused of deliberately harming patients.
The Dallas Morning News reported on how a Dallas judge last week declined to reduce bond on Christopher Duntsch.
Criminal District Court Judge Carter Thomas sided with Dallas County prosecutors in keeping bond at $600,000 for Duntsch, according to reports.
The 44-year-old Duntsch, has been jailed since July 21 when he was arrested on five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and a count of injuring an elderly person. Duntsch has been charged in five patients’ injuries or deaths, but an affidavit from Dallas police stated he is under investigation for intentionally botching at least 10 other patients’ surgeries.
Police claimed in the documents that Duntsch “knowingly takes actions that place the patients’ lives at risk.” He is accused of causing extreme blood loss by cutting a major vein and then failing to take taking proper steps to correct it. In one case, Duntsch left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body, according to reports.
Although the defense said the former neurosurgeon did not pose a risk, prosecutors argued that his bond should remain high because he could flee Dallas or harm other people while free. They also claimed he could try to apply again for a medical license.
The Dallas Morning News reported that his father, Donald Duntsch, testified on behalf of the prosecution.
Michelle Shughart, a prosecutor, asked him if his son was trying to get his medical license reinstated.
“I guess that’s probably true,” Donald Duntsch said, while also saying that he wasn’t sure.
The defense has argued that Duntsch made honest mistakes but they were not criminal mistakes. The prosecution is claiming his negligence was intentional and reckless.
Duntsch was stripped of his medical license in December 2013 after the Texas Medical Board found he had a longstanding pattern of failing to follow proper procedures before his operations or respond to complications that endangered at least six patients and caused at least two deaths.
Duntsch told The Dallas Morning News in 2014 that “99 percent of everything that has been said about me is completely false.”
Former patients have supported the criminal proceedings. “He needs to be where he is right now until he gets to trial,” said Lee Passmore, 40, a former patient of the doctor who has suffered extreme pain and other serious complications. Another doctor claimed he grabbed Duntsch’s tools to stop him from operating during Passmore’s procedure because he was horrified by Duntsch’s errors.
Cases such as this raise a number of questions. While negligence often falls short of criminality, recklessness or intent can land a professional before the criminal courts. These cases are very complicated and you should always hire experienced criminal defense attorneys if you are hit with charges like these.