Story: Dr. Christopher Duntsch seemed poised for a long, remarkable career in the medical field, as he was a standout student in his studies and chose a specialty in spinal surgery, a rare skill that would make him a valuable asset in any hospital. He signed with Dallas area facility Baylor Plano, where his arrival was much anticipated and expectations were high, to say the least. When he went into his first surgery however, those around him noticed nearly instantly that something was wrong, as the routine procedure would take some dangerous turns. He not only operated on the wrong part of the patient’s back, leading to chronic pain, but a second surgery to correct the first one led to partial paralysis. This pattern would continue with his next patients, but despite the warnings of his peers, the hospital refused to take his license or order him to cease operations. Is Dr. Duntsch someone in over his head with such a skilled profession or is there something darker in his mind?
Entertainment Value: I’ve seen a number of wild documentaries and true crime docuseries, but few reach this level of “this can’t be real, right?” I was floored as the early stories of Dr. Duntsch began to unwind, but the more this series revealed, the more and more jaw dropping things become. That this was even allowed to happen once is outrageous, let alone on the scale that would eventually play out, it is just insane. Dr. Death runs four episodes and never runs slow in the least, if anything I’d have liked an additional episode added. I wouldn’t have minded more interview time with the patients and others who were first hand witnesses, as there is just so much that is off the rails about Duntsch, both in and out of the operating room. Obviously an interview with Duntsch himself could have added a lot, but given his delusions, he would have never been candid or honest.
The series is well produced, though not as stylish or kinetic as some of its peers, though the nature of the material here works well with a more serious approach. The only knock I have really is the repeated footage of Duntsch that the series uses, often as bumpers where commercials could be inserted, but that’s a minor complaint. The episodes are well paced and edited with skill, while each one has a lot of narrative progression and twists & turns, so there isn’t much filler to sift through, which is always welcome in this kind of shows. The interview subjects are honest and direct, which leads to quite an unflattering portrait of Duntsch, but that’s to be expected, since there is no doubt as to his conduct or personal problems at this point. I was hooked from the jump, so it isn’t a slow burn, instead it starts at a brisk pace and only escalates, as Duntsch’s story gets crazier and crazier. I’d recommend this series to anyone with even a mild interest in wild documentaries or true crime stories.