Surgeon sentenced to life in prison for maiming elderly patient

Former neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, MD, PhD, was sentenced Monday to life in prison for injury to an elderly person, which is a first-degree felony, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Dr. Duntsch, who practiced as several Dallas hospitals, was accused of crippling four patients, causing the deaths of two others and leaving several more with surgical waste sewn up inside of them between July 2012 and June 2013. In 2015, he was arrested on five aggravated assault charges.

His 13-day trial this month focused on only one victim, 74-year-old Mary Efurd. She lost full use of her legs after Dr. Duntsch performed a spinal surgery on her in 2012. Robert Henderson, MD, who treated Ms. Efurd following the surgery, said he found Dr. Duntsch had amputated a nerve root, drilled a screw into her spinal cavity and put implants in muscle instead of on bone, according to the report. 

At trial, Dr. Duntsch's lawyers argued he was distracted in the operating room when he performed Ms. Efurd's surgery. They also said he was "not a skilled surgeon," according to the report.

Prosecutors argued Dr. Duntsch knew what he was doing and chose to keep injuring patients. "He obviously knew at some point that what he was doing was criminal," Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at a press conference, according to the Dallas Observer. Ms. Johnson said Dr. Duntsch's case was elevated from malpractice to criminal assault because he kept performing surgeries after causing so many injuries.

Dr. Duntsch was stripped of his medical license in 2013.

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