Dr. Death

Doctor about to perform surgery





Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

Dr. Christopher Duntsch is renowned as one of Texas’ top neurosurgeons. His stem cell research is promising, and he’s working on a cure for cancer. Patients love him, his mentors revere him and hospitals are begging to have him.

Except that it’s all a lie.

After witnessing the aftereffects of Duntsch’s practices that left patients permanently disabled or even dead, Dr. Randall Kirby and Dr. Robert Henderson attempt to have the “good doctor” disbarred.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

Despite a system designed to protect the public from malpractice, doctors and hospitals have neglected to report Duntsch’s mistakes. His mentors insist that he was a model surgeon, former employers cite privacy acts to withhold information, patients refuse to comment and Duntsch himself manages to find loopholes, blaming others for his mistakes.

It’s not that many of these people don’t want to see Duntsch’s medical license revoked. It’s just that the doctors and hospitals who employed him don’t want to get sued, and the patients who were injured by him don’t want to relive the trauma.

Kirby and Henderson have their work cut out for them, but they’ll have to move quickly to stop Duntsch from cutting into another patient.

Hippocratic Oath

Dr. Death is based on a real doctor who, in 2017, was sentenced to life in prison after two horrific years of botched surgeries. The Peacock show is rated TV-MA for language—we hear multiple uses of the f-word and other profanities—and for sex. Dr. Duntsch is married to a former stripper (we see her and other women on full display), and he cheats on her with another woman (which we also see on screen). But it could also be rated for drug use since Duntsch and others use cocaine.

Plus, the show is dark.

Kirby and Henderson aren’t sure if Duntsch is just a dangerous combination of incompetence and arrogance or if he’s actually a sociopath maiming his patients on purpose.

But it’s not just Duntsch’s ethics on trial here. The morality of several people comes into question. The doctors and hospitals who failed to suspend Duntsch know they did the wrong thing. But they also refuse to admit it since they could get sued—which would actually prevent them from helping more people in the future.

Kirby wants to cause Duntsch physical harm, if only to stop him from operating, but Henderson insists they should trust the system to investigate and prosecute Duntsch. But at what point is it worth it to take the risk in order to stop a man from harming others?

We see lots of blood in the operating room both during Duntsch’s surgeries and when other doctors go back in to fix his butchering. And more often than not, people die after Duntsch promises to “fix” them.

Doctors may take the Hippocratic Oath—vowing to do no harm—but it’s clear that Duntsch ignores it, and this show has clearly not taken such an oath at all. 

Episode Reviews

Jul. 15, 2021: “Diplos”

Dr. Robert Henderson is shocked by the carnage when he performs a surgery to fix the mistakes made by Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

Several patients trust Duntsch’s promises to heal them, only to come out of surgery in worse shape than they went in. We see lots of blood and some organs during surgeries. Duntsch ignores offers for help from surgical staffers and later blames them for his botched operations. We hear that Duntsch has killed a few people and turned one man (who was supposedly his friend) into a quadriplegic.

A hole in Duntsch’s scrubs reveals he isn’t wearing underwear. A broken disco ball hangs in his medical clinic, and he drives a car with a damaged bumper. We also witness (and hear others talk about) his unconventional surgical methods that seem to cause more harm than good. All these incidents suggest that Duntsch is a much more violent man than he has led people to believe.

People lie and manipulate to cover up their own mistakes. People talk about a mass shooting. A man drinks alcohol and shows up to work drunk. Duntsch’s ex screams at him when he stalks her since she has a restraining order against him.

A woman says she leaves herself in God’s and Dr. Duntsch’s hands. Duntsch claims he will give a woman a “second life.” Duntsch’s dad says that pride is a sin and refuses to drink because of his religion (which Duntsch mocks him for, saying God has an “affinity for wine”). His dad also references a story from the Bible and asks his son to watch his mouth when Duntsch misuses Christ’s name. We hear multiple uses of the f-word and s-word. There are also uses of “a–” and “douchey.”

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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