The “Dr. Death” podcast, called by some in the media one of the “most horrifying” surgery stories ever told, was one of the most-listened to podcasts of 2018 and of all time.
Detailing how Texas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch was able to operate on over 30 patients over a two-year period despite evidence that he was harming more than he helped, the podcast featured Lyons & Simmons co-founder Michael Lyons, who represented Barry Morguloff, one of Dr. Duntsch’s patients.
Many of Dr. Duntsch’s patients suffered post-surgery complications attributed to the work he had done. Two died as a result of their surgeries. Others were rendered paralyzed. As Mr. Morguloff would later testify in the criminal trial against Dr. Duntsch, he was assured the doctor could “fix him,” so he agreed to let him operate. Like many others, Mr. Morguloff would go on to sustain serious, debilitating spine injuries at the hands of Dr. Duntsch. Seeking legal recourse, Mr. Morguloff visited a number of attorneys, all of who turned him away. Each explained that Texas’ tort reform measures passed in 2003 meant the case was virtually unwinnable and would be more costly to litigate than could be recovered. Mr. Morguloff then visited Mr. Lyons, who surprised him by agreeing to take the case as part of a personal crusade to put an end to Dr. Duntsch’s madness.
As explained in the podcast, the motivation was to ensure justice was served, which meant they would have to win in the criminal courts rather than the civil courts. “To get this guy off the streets so nobody else got hurt again was important. The public needed to know that there was a monster out there,” said Mr. Morguloff.
In reflecting on the Dr. Death podcast, Mr. Lyons said he hopes it helps ignite interest in the dangers of tort reform. “What’s happening now is that people have less access to the courts. You lose the ability to police bad health care professionals. There is an absolute concerted effort to end your right to have a trial by jury and most don’t even know it’s happening,” he said.
Produced by Wondery and hosted by noted health and science journalist Laura Beil, the Dr. Death podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify.