'Dr. Death' trained in Memphis before maiming, killing patients

Memphis trained surgeon calls himself a 'cold-blooded killer', sentenced to life in prison
Updated: Feb. 22, 2017 at 5:19 PM CST
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Christopher Duntsch (Source: Dallas County Jail via AP)
Christopher Duntsch (Source: Dallas County Jail via AP)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A surgeon trained in Memphis was convicted of maiming and killing his patients and sentenced to life in prison.

"Really who he is was someone who called himself a cold-blooded killer, someone who calls himself a god at times, who believed he was a god at times," said Justin McCants of the Texas DA's office.

The man known as Dr. Death got his undergraduate degree from University of Memphis and went to medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison in Texas this week for spinal surgeries he botched on purpose. It's the day loved ones of deceased victims have waited on for years.

"We're overwhelmed," Don Martin said. "This my daughter. This was a voice for Kelly. And we're just so thankful. And hopefully move on with our lives."

Of the 32 patients, two were killed and two were paralyzed—including his close friend Jerry Summers of Memphis.

"Christopher Duntsch became a doctor. Christopher Duntsch explained to Jerry, 'I can operate on you, and I can make you feel better. I can take away the shooting pain in your leg. You're compressed in L4, L5 or some area in your spine,'" attorney Jeff Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum represented Summers in civil court, years prior to Duntsch's criminal conviction. He helped proved Duntsch was guilty of medical negligence.

"So my client goes to Texas to have the surgery; he wakes up in the recovery room and can't move his fingers and toes," Rosenblum said. "We believe that was obviously a medical emergency, surgical emergency to obviously go back in and to find out why you can't move at that point, to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. That wasn't done, and Jerry became a permanent paraplegic."

Summers now cannot eat or dress himself alone—he requires care every day following the surgery.

Rosenblum said in the criminal case, the justice system finally got it right by taking a dangerous doctor out of the operating room and putting him in a prison cell for the rest of his life.

Duntsch's defense blamed poor training and a flawed system that allowed him to continue working despite many red flags.

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