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REVIEW: Dr. Death

Dr. Death Review

Dr. Death is based upon the podcast by the same name and features the horrific neurosurgeon, Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson). Duntsch is purportedly a great surgeon, as far as his mentors are concerned. This is quickly found to not be the case by Doctors Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), and Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin), who was called in to help patients suffering from the botched surgeries, infections, and paralysis.

Duntsch botches 33 out of 38 surgeries over two years, and two of those patients die. Doctors Kirby and Henderson repeatedly try to stop the cycle of patient harm in the Dallas area but are thwarted at most turns. They report Duntsch to the hospitals he works at, and the Texas Medical Board, all of whom don’t end up doing anything. Eventually, they get the Dallas County District Attorney involved, who are also not exactly keen to prosecute a doctor, insisting that it’s more of a civil medical malpractice case, rather than aggravated assault and injury to an elder, which is a felony in the state.

Dr Death Review

The case is taken over by the youngest Assistant District Attorney at the county, Melissa Shughart (AnnaSophia Robb), who gathers evidence and testimony from several maimed patients, including Duntsch’s best friend, whom he made a paraplegic by decapitating him, Jerry Summers (Dominic Burgess). The case turns out as you hoped it would, and Duntsch gets to be known as the first doctor (used loosely) to be convicted and incarcerated in the state of Texas, due to his actions in the surgery theatre.

I love true crime media, I consume it at an alarming rate, but I don’t typically watch the fictional portrayals of the stories. For this show, I figured that I wouldn’t like it, because it had Baldwin in it, and I don’t particularly like him and avoid him. Another issue was, the first three episodes were free on Peacock, and the last episodes were only available for Peacock premium subscribers.

Dr Death Review

I was hooked from the beginning and ended up subscribing to Peacock premium. Jackson was so good as Duntsch, he was both charming and completely psychotic. The series bounced between the present day and Duntsch’s past, which was a wise storytelling method. While it does show the genesis of this sociopathic individual, I don’t sympathize with him, at all.

Slater and Baldwin were a great team and vibed off each other. They each portrayed two different sorts of doctors, at least, here in the US. Baldwin’s Henderson was the mild-mannered doctor with good bedside manner, whereas Slater was the brash, straight-to-the-point doctor that might just hurt your feelings.

The whole cast did a fantastic job of keeping the series interesting and consuming. I don’t typically binge-watch series that aren’t documentaries, but this one was so good, I couldn’t help it. It was worth the $4.99 Peacock subscription fee.

Dr. Death Crime, Drama, Thriller | September 12, 2021 (United Kingdom) 7.7
Writer: Patrick MacmanusStars: Joshua Jackson, Christian Slater, Alec BaldwinSummary: As patients entering the operating room of Dr. Christopher Duntsch for routine spinal surgeries start leaving permanently maimed or dead, two fellow surgeons and a young Assistant District Attorney set out to stop him.

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Dr Death

Immediately after watching the dramatization of the Dr. Death story, I watched the 4-part documentary series, also on Peacock. I’m not sure as to why Peacock included ‘The Undoctored Story’, are they implying that the dramatization was doctored?

The docuseries does not attempt to humanize Christopher Duntsch, at all. Even his paralyzed best friend, Jerry Summers, was harsher than the drama series. Doctors Randall Kirby and Robert Henderson appear in the series, though Henderson is not as present as Kirby. Kirby is by far, the most outspoken doctor amongst the group. Multiple doctors also voiced concerns about Duntsch in general and were featured in the documentary.

Dr Death Review

In the drama series, it’s made quite clear that there was a lot of drug use occurring, and that Duntsch was inebriated out of his mind. Wendy, Duntsch’s former stripper girlfriend, and baby momma insist that she never saw drug use. I thought that was almost laughable.

The multiple doctors and former patients were the most compelling out of all the persons interviewed. They did make a point to interview Jerry Summers, the best friend whom Duntsch decapitated. Kirby was one of my favourites throughout the series, as was the first surgeon that reported Duntsch, Dr. Mark Hoyle. This was a widespread issue and makes it even more tragic that multiple surgeons and anesthesiologists reported his dangerous surgeries.

This documentary places a spotlight on how trusted doctors are in general, and patients expect that they’re not going to be harmed and receive appropriate treatment. The fact that the hospitals at the time in Texas are not technically required to report Duntsch is severely problematic. It’s the same with the Texas Medical Board dragged butt when it comes to complaints. I work at an employer that scrutinizes various doctors and it’s pretty disgusting what is allowed. The board is very provider-friendly, and there are a lot of rural areas that flat out wouldn’t have doctors if they revoked the licenses of all the slimeballs.

I’m sure people that aren’t aware of how the medical system works in the USA, and specifically Texas, will be more horrified than most. I recommend watching the drama series, before the documentary series to thoroughly enjoy both series.

Dr. Death: The Undoctored Story Documentary, Crime | July 29, 2021 (United States) 7.6
Stars: Keri Bunkers, Kyle Kissinger, R Scott HoffmanSummary: Follows the whole and real story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch told by the people who survived it.

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Erika Johnson
I'm a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I'm an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I'm not at the movies, I'm either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.