A former neurosurgeon has been sentenced to life in prison for medical malpractice in what the Dallas County District Attorney’s office called a landmark case with regards to prosecuting a doctor for wrongdoing in surgery.
It took a jury just one hour to sentence Christopher Duntsch to the maximum penalty for conducting a series of failed spinal surgeries on 32 patients. Two were paralyzed and two more were killed due to he operations, CBS reports.
DA Faith Johnson said in a news conference after the conviction, “This is a great day. We have done something historic. We are so elated about the life sentence.”
The former neurosurgeon from North Texas was charged with intentionally harming the patients he was supposed to be saving. After the verdict came back, Don Martin, whose wife was one of the patients Duntsch had operated on and later died, said, “We’re overwhelmed. This was a voice for Kelly. And we’re just so thankful. And hopefully move on with our lives.”
Caitlin Linhuf, whose mother also suffered a tragic fate after surgery with Duntsch, said,
I’m just so grateful, from the bottom of my heart. This will not bring my mother back, but this is some sense of justice.
Jurors heard from several of the doctor’s victims. Mary Efurd testified that after Duntsch botched her surgery in 2012, she was left wheelchair-bound. Several other people said that the surgeon had maimed them on purpose. Prosecutors called Duntsch malicious and reckless, and accused him or maiming four more patients between July 2012 and June 2013.
Duntsch’s attorneys, on the other hand, argued that he was not a criminal, but rather, just an incompetent surgeon.
Efurd said the verdict was a long time coming. She said she felt relieved. “Finally justice has been done after 4 1/2 years. And I hope I’m speaking for all the other families and their loved ones also. I think we feel real good about it. We feel like justice was done.”
When she heard that the doctor was no longer practicing medicine, she cried. “You know, when they finally got his license suspended I cried for two days. It was just relief that didn’t stop.”