Dr. Death is the latest true crime podcast from Wondery, the podcast network that brought you Dirty John. But fair warning, listener: this new listen is not likely to lull you to sleep. In fact, it’s one of the goriest–and most terrifying–stories you’ll hear this year.
Reported and hosted by Laura Beil, the podcast follows the work of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a young surgeon working in Dallas. Personable, handsome, and seemingly talented, Duntsch regularly encouraged his patients to look up his reviews and accreditations online.
He bragged that he was the best surgeon in Dallas; though he might have seemed cocky, no one had any reason to doubt him. One patient went so far as to contact the medical board before scheduling an appointment for spinal surgery, yet could only find reassurances that the man whose hands he placed his life in was the best in the business. He’d soon find otherwise.
Duntsch had played football in college, and his teammates remembered him as being the hardest working guy on the team. He ran the same drills for days at a time, working tirelessly just to hold on to his spot in the middle of the pack. “He never gave up,” his friend said. Duntsch's all-consuming nature likely propelled him into his life as a surgeon–and it ultimately led to his downfall.
For some patients, Dr. Duntsch’s promises seemed too good to be true. He worked on spinal injuries and assured his patients that he could fix what no other doctors had been able to remedy. For those in desperate pain, Dr. Dutsch seemed like their only option.
Those promises weren’t just too good to be true–they turned out to be fatal. Beil reveals the layers of Duntsch’s warped personality, drug use, and utter incompetence as a surgeon that made his practice so deadly. Beil explores 33 cases of dashed hope, vulnerable patients, and surgeries so grotesquely mishandled that listening can be difficult for even the most hardened true crime aficionados. When staff from The Lineup listened to the first episode during a preview of the upcoming season in late August, even we felt the chills crawling up our spines.
As the podcast traces the details of Dr. Duntsch’s many botched, often lethal operations, we are forced to examine the blind trust we place in the medical sphere and the system that can protect even the worst offenders. Could Duntsch have been stopped before it was too late? If so, how could the medical system, in place to protect people at their most vulnerable, fail to protect Duntsch's patients?