Texas neurosurgeon sentenced to life for maiming patients

DALLAS (AP) — Jurors sentenced a former Dallas neurosurgeon to life in prison on Monday for maiming patients who had turned to him for surgery to resolve debilitating injuries.

The decision came almost a week after the Dallas County jury convicted 44-year-old Christopher Duntsch of first-degree felony injury to an elderly person.

Prosecutors alleged numerous cases of malpractice against the former Plano physician, including that he improperly placed screws and plates along patients’ spines, left a sponge in another patient and cut a major vein in another. Two of his patients died.

The sentence “won’t obviously bring my mom back and it won’t heal the 34 people that have been affected,” said Caitlin Martin-Linduff, whose mother Kellie Martin died in 2012 following back surgery. “But it will bring some sense of justice and particularly some sense of closure.”

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Records showed that Duntsch also operated on the wrong part of a patient’s spine and left one woman wheelchair-dependent. A surgeon testifying for prosecutors said it was like letting an amateur loose in surgery.

Duntsch’s attorneys argued he wasn’t a criminal, just a lousy surgeon.

Prosecutors had accused Duntsch of maiming four patients and causing the death of at least two between July 2012 and June 2013. But the trial centered on Mary Efurd, who was 74 when she underwent surgery in 2012. Evidence showed that she lost a third of her blood volume and the use of a leg following her operation.

“I trusted him. I trusted that he would do what was right,” Efurd testified during the trial.