Two images, one of a surgeon reaching for tools and the other is the artwork for the Dr Death podcast

Is Dr. Death based on a true story?

Chances are you’ve at least heard of Dr. Death; the 10-part podcast series launched in late 2018 and almost immediately landed itself at the top of the Crime podcast charts.

Dr. Death has also since been adapted into a crime anthology TV series, starring Joshua Jackson – yes, Pacey from Dawson’s Creek – as the titular character: Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

While the TV show is a fictionalised version of the story, the podcast follows the real-life case of Dr. Duntsch, the neurosurgeon accused of leaving dozens of patients injured, in pain and even dead.

Spoilers ahead; if you want to listen to the podcast first, you can listen here.

Christopher Duntsch was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1971, later earning his M.D and PhD from the University of Tennessee. The podcast delves into Duntsch’s education and his residency, where an anonymous complaint accused him of taking drugs. Duntsch refused a drug test, according to ProPublica, and was thus ordered to attend a program for impaired physicians.

By the time Duntsch finished his residency, he had reportedly operated fewer than 100 times – well short of the approximate 1,000 operations a typical neurosurgery resident completes during training.

Duntsch went on to take his first full-time job as a practising surgeon in 2011 – and in the two years that followed, operated on 37 patients. Two of those patients died, and 31 more suffered complications and injuries including permanent nerve damage, paralysis and severe, ongoing pain.

Duntsch was eventually suspended in 2013 and, in July 2015, was arrested and charged with one count injury to an elderly person and five counts of assault. But the case threw up multiple questions about how he was allowed to continuing operating on patients for so long, in multiple facilities and hospitals.

They’re the questions the Dr. Death podcast tries to get to the bottom off. Reported and hosted by Laura Beil, the Wondery series is available to listen to on the LiSTNR app now.

Delve into more episodes like these by downloading the free LiSTNR app, the home of crime podcasts.