Krieger & Ongert, Attorneys At Law
Speak with one of our attorneys today
Main Menu

Do Texas surgeons need to fear criminal prosecution for mistakes?

A Texas surgeon has made legal history, but not in a good way: As far as anyone knows, he's the first doctor ever to be charged criminally for surgical mistakes.

Is this something that every surgeon needs to now worry about, or was there something particularly special about this case?

There was, in fact, something very special about this case. Surgeons—even those who make foolish mistakes—are unlikely to start facing criminal juries anytime soon unless they first advertise their intentions to become a "cold-blooded killer" before they start on a spree of surgeries with bizarre, or maybe brazen, "mistakes."

The surgeon, nicknamed "Dr. Death" by the press, was found guilty of intentionally causing injury to an elderly person and sentenced to life in prison.

Former patients and prosecutors believe that's the only way to stop the surgeon from ever hurting anyone again. They believe the surgeon saw the Texas health care system as a "cash cow" and saw himself as above the law, able to do whatever he wanted to his patients without fear of reprisal.

Aside from calling himself a "cold-blooded killer," the surgeon openly referred to himself as a god. In at least one case, he lied and told a patient's family that he'd found a tumor in order to cover up his crimes in the operating room. Ultimately, that's the sort of activity that moved the case into criminal court.

While it's unlikely that there's going to be a rush to criminally charge and prosecute surgeons who make mistakes, even bad ones, other surgeons should take some lessons from the case:

-- If you have a rash of accidents inside the surgery room within a short period of time, stop and seek help for whatever is causing the problem. Don't continue to operate. That could open you up to criminal charges of acting "intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence."

For example, if you have a hidden drug problem and it's caused complications, stop operating until you get help.

-- Don't attempt to lie to cover up what you've done. As in this case, that could be considered a strong indicator that you knew what you had done was wrong and were acting out of a guilty knowledge.

If you are afraid that something you've done is about to result in criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss the situation.

Source:, "Victim of Christopher Duntsch: The Difference Between Malpractice and Criminal Negligence Was Simple," Olivia Nguyen, Feb. 22, 2017

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Need Legal Advice?Get a Free Case Review

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Two Offices To Better Serve You

League City Office
215 E. Galveston St.
League City, TX 77573

Phone: 281-486-8125 x2
Fax: 281-332-7877
League City Law Office Map

Houston Office
17225 El Camino Real, Suite 320
Houston, TX 77058

Phone: 281-486-8125 x1
Fax: 281-480-0885
Houston Law Office Map