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A listener note, this story contains adult content and language. In August of 2011, a nurse practitioner in Dallas named Kimberly Morgan was looking for a job. She was a strong independent.
She took care of her family. She was smart, very smart. Lady B.J. Ellison was a friend of Kim's at the time. I always thought she was a little wacky in the love department.
But who my. Kimberly was coming back from a beach vacation when she got a call from a doctor she knew saying that a new Dallas neurosurgeon was setting up his office. She had just gotten off a plane and she was in short shorts. She was tan. She had a t shirt. She went right in for the interview off the plane.
Kim was attracted to Chris Duchies, intellect and raw ambition. She said she thought that he was going to make millions. He was smart. He was brilliant. He was a genius. He would be heading up a neurosurgical department at Baylor and she just found the one. So she had a thing for him instantly. Yes. Dennis was living with his girlfriend, Wendy Young, who by this time was about five months pregnant. Chris did his best to keep these two women apart.
He told Kim that Wendy was a secretary from back in Memphis and that her husband would be moving to Dallas soon.
He told Wendy that Kim was just his assistant, even though they started sleeping together after she had been working for him for about a month.
Chris was living with Wendy, but he had a habit of sending Kimberly intimate, rambling, profanity laced emails that made little or no sense. Here's one of them from that October where I came from, I rule the fucking world and crossed every fucking thing that looked at me twice and was always hidden and behind the scenes.
And another he said at four a.m. one day in December, it had the subject line, Occam's Razor, Occam's Razor, the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely printed out. The email runs just over four pages, single spaced. It meanders and is often hard to follow. But buried in the middle is this. Anyone close to me thinks that I am something between God, Einstein and the Antichrist, because how can I do anything I want and cross every discipline boundary like it's a playground and never lose?
I am ready to leave the love and kindness and goodness and patience that I mix with everything else that I am and become a cold blooded killer. The sad fact is that I would go faster, do better and catch more respect and honor by fucking everyone in the brain, emotionally and mentally controlling them in a manner that borders on abuse. Taking no prisoners and sending everyone in my way and especially that fucks with me to hell. Less than two months later, Christopher Dench operated on his childhood friend, Jerry Summers.
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So there's nothing to lose that's simply safe dotcom. Dr.. From Wendy, I'm Laura Beal and this is Dr. Death. This is episode three, Ockham's Razor don't saw himself as someone who didn't have to play by other people's rules, he had the air of a fast talking salesman and he was the product.
He peddled his surgical skill with ease, winning the trust of patients one after another.
Even Jerry, who was arguably closer to danger than anyone in the world, to almost everyone who knew him, doctor didn't seemed to be a neurosurgeon with a bright future. He could point to his training at the University of Tennessee, which included a prestigious fellowship for spinal surgery.
But I took a closer look at that surgical training crystal and bragged about so easily.
The fact is, while Dunwich was in medical school, he spent more time in the laboratory than in the operating room.
I ran into him at a Christmas party in 2006 and that's when we reconnected.
Rand Page was another old high school acquaintance. This was back when Duncan was a medical resident and a researcher in Memphis.
We started talking and just reminiscing and talking about our high school years. And then he shared with me that he was in the process of starting up two companies.
Researches in the lab where Chris worked had made a discovery that Denge thought could make a lot of money. Well, he started asking me if I wanted to get involved from an investment standpoint and an operational standpoint. He had a very aggressive personality. He certainly knew the details and the science and presented it well. The research team had extracted cells from healthy desks and were working to repurpose them, turning them into a kind of replacement parts that could be injected into disease desks and possibly rejuvenate aging tissue.
The goal was to relieve back pain without surgery.
It is an allogeneic injectable cell therapy comprised of disco genic cells and a vicious carrier that is currently being evaluated in clinical trials to treat mild to moderate degenerative.
He formed a company called this Genex and started looking for investors. Rande Page was one of them, one of Dench's supervisors at the medical school. Kevin Foley was another. But it didn't take long for Dench's business partners to decide that he was too problematic for a long term relationship at the dinner meetings.
It would be nothing for him to have half a dozen drinks in a matter of an hour.
And was it just socially that you observed this or were there other times when you observed him drinking the times that it stood out as when we would meet in the mornings and he would be mixing a vodka orange juice to start off the day?
Once Paige went into his office to retrieve some paperwork and saw inside an open desk drawer cocaine piled on a mirror, a rolled up dollar bill beside it. I've spoken to Rand Paige off and on over the last few months, and he strikes me as a pretty straight laced guy. He has even eat unhealthy. So needless to say, he was shocked to discover his business partner casually doing Coke.
I confronted him several times. And what was his reaction? He said, do not get involved in his personal life. And the substance abuse was actually worse than Rand Paige knew. Here's a girlfriend of Jeri's from around 2006 who remembers one night in particular to protect her privacy. I'm not saying her name. She would later give a deposition to a Dallas attorney.
And so when was the first time you remember seeing Christopher Dunn?
She used illegal drugs, was at his birthday party. The celebration started at a club in downtown Memphis, then the partygoers drove in a caravan to his house. There was LSD, cocaine. There was a dog there, no bull dog, and, you know, she could have easily gotten into the drugs. That became a realization. You're like, oh my gosh, this is out of hand.
Drinks were in the living room, LSD in the freezer, cocaine in the back. There's just a pile of it on top of the dresser. The party lasted through the night. The sun came up and Dench was due at the hospital. Most people, when they go binge all night long, they don't function the next day to go to work. Those people will call in. I thought it was pretty amazing that he was even able to go to work the next day like he wasn't scared and he was totally fine going to work after you had witnessed him doing cocaine and LSD all night long.
All night long. He made his rounds at the hospital, then returned and picked up the party where he'd left off. In 2010, Rampage got a few bizarre calls from Walgreens saying his prescriptions were ready, medicine he knew nothing about. He drove to the pharmacy and discovered that Dunwich had been using his name to write prescriptions that someone was picking up and paying for in cash.
Eventually, Dench's investors at Genex had had enough with his behavior. They kicked him out and sued him over money and stock he owed them. Just Genex has moved its headquarters to Utah, where it still exists today. The only remnant of Dodge that remains is his name on the original patents, incorporation, filings and trademark.
I tried repeatedly to talk to someone at the company, but no one would answer my questions except to say that don't officially separated from just Genex for good in January 2012.
Rand Paige believes that Dunn staked his future on getting rich as an executive at Genex, not practicing medicine. I don't think his plan was was ever to become a surgeon. So neurosurgery was a sort of fallback option when he lost that income. I think the decision was made for him that he was going to have to enter into the medical community to support himself.
Luckily for him, neurosurgeons bring in a lot of money, both for themselves and for the hospitals where they operate. Even if he didn't have just Genex anymore, he still had a lot of prospects. After he finished medical school, this was after he was kicked out of Genex by his partners, Chris was hired by the minimally invasive Spine Institute in Dallas. This was in 2011 at the time that he and Jerry Summers were moving down to Dallas together before they hired him.
The doctors at the practice contacted his med school supervisors to confirm that doesn't really was as good as he seemed on paper. I asked the people at the Spine Institute what they were told. One of the best and smartest neurosurgeons they ever trained was the response. His university supervisors went on at length about dentists strengths when asked about his weaknesses or areas of improvement.
When supervising physician in Tennessee said the only weakness Denge had was that he, quote, took on too many tasks for one person. What's striking is what they didn't mention to the folks in Dallas. At one point during Dench's residency, a woman and it's not known who actually call the university to report that Dunt was doing drugs before seeing patients. Here's the chief of neurosurgery, Dr. Frederick Boob, later recounting this story to Dr. Henderson.
When I got a phone call from the hospital administration saying that someone that had anonymously call saying that she just wanted us to know that he liked a lot of stuff, we want to update on the phone, which he was ordered to take a drug test, but he vanished for several days instead.
Eventually, he was sent to a program for impaired physicians, but in 2010, that didn't bear mentioning to his future employers.
Instead, Dr. Boop wrote, You will not find a harder working, more willing individual. And in recommendation forms faxed to administrators at Baylor Hospital, where Dunn first worked, another of his supervisors checked boxes marked excellent or good, except one for interpersonal skills that he rated as average. There was another, even more important fact that Dent and his supervisors didn't mention to his future medical partners in Dallas the question of how much damage did in the way of actual surgery.
The Dallas district attorney would later subpoena records from every hospital in Memphis where he trained. I talked to the spinal surgeon, Dr. Robert Henderson, about what I'd found during your residency. Can you give me an estimation of about how many operations that you performed or assisted with as a medical resident? Conservatively, 2500. The records indicate that Dr. Denge had performed less than 100 operations during his training. What do you think about that? Uh, I mean, I'd say that has to be a mistake.
I'd say that has to be a mistake. I mean, if you told me it was a thousand, I would say that that's not enough. It was less than 100. I'm flabbergasted. I that's. I'm in total disbelief. Never should he have been allowed out of a program, if that's true. I mean, if you told me that he did a hundred craniotomies and he did a hundred discectomy and he did a hundred fusions and he did a hundred other types of procedures, then I would say, well, that's adequate.
I reached out multiple times to speak to the doctors and administrators at the university. None would speak to me, the university attorney sent me a letter that concluded they could not because of, quote, statutory confidentiality and privilege provisions that govern the information regarding Dr. Christopher Denge. Changing up your hair color can change your whole day, week, month even. The problem is it might be hard to get to a salon right now or maybe the expense is holding you back.
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Denton Kimberley rarely went out in public, but they often had sex on his office sofa after hours in a deposition later, she called this dating.
So why is that a date? Because I was in the office. No other people from no other office workers there. So that's considered a date, the two of us. And there was other less than professional behavior hidden in the medical office of Dr. Christopher Dunwich, some of it looked a lot like his Memphis' days.
We were at Baylor and I remember him saying to him, you cannot keep that jug of vodka under your desk. It's against the rules for Baylor playing those buildings. If they find that, they'll report you. And he pooh poohed her back. I'll never do anything to me.
During a Christmas party, one office worker found a baggie of white powder in the bathroom.
In her deposition, Kimberly conceded that she never alerted Baylor to any of this. She flushed the bagi down the toilet, if Baylor had a policy that required you to report those kinds of things to the hospital, would you have followed that policy?
That's the voice of Dallas attorney Jim Jarrad's out of a follow up Baylor policy. Hundred percent, sir.
So if there was a policy that said if you witnessed bizarre behavior, potential alcohol or drug abuse or whatever it might be, you need to contact Baylor, whoever the contact person is, you would have followed that? I would have told them about any type of illicit subject, anything that could harm a patient, harm the staff, anything that was outside of his normal realm. I mean, outside of a normal, rational person surgeon.
Don't his partners at the Spine Institute didn't know this kind of thing was going on, but it didn't take long for them to see enough disturbing behavior to cut ties with their new recruit.
I had several conversations with one of them, but no one would speak on tape.
The first rumors came from Doug one, and they were just rumors.
Randall Kirby is a vascular surgeon with operating privileges at nearly every hospital in town.
He's very well connected. He started to hear the same rumors Dr. Henderson had.
Dr. Warren felt that doctor don't behaves strangely in their clinic at the minimally invasive surgery institute. He did not like Dr. Duncan's behavior and did not like him from the very first. And the nurses didn't like me either.
I get the impression that the nurses in the scrub techs and people in the office, they're not prone to a lot of gossip, like they don't speak up a lot. So how unusual is it that you start hearing stories? It's very unusual.
Kirby hardly knew Dr. Dent, but would see him occasionally in the doctor's lounge at Baylor Plano.
Our conversations were one of my conversations. He wasn't very interested in me or what I did in Dallas or my training. All he was interested in and was promoting himself.
But the breaking point for his boss, Dr. Michael Rimawi, came when he was supposed to be on call for a patient, but he skipped off to Vegas, instead missing his hospital rounds. Dr. Denge hadn't injured any patients while at the Spine Institute, but still they'd had enough. They fired him. But there was nothing keeping Denge from opening his own private practice or from continuing to operate at Baylor Hospital in Plano.
We felt it was kind of unusual that Dr. Kim Louhi had fired him, but he was still working up there at Baylor under a physician's services agreement with Baylor themselves. You would have thought that the administration at Baylor, Plano would have gone to Dr. Hamoui and say, hey, why did you fire him? That none of that was done?
It wouldn't be long before Dr. Kearby got to see Dr. Dench's operating skills for himself. The words that he said that I wanted to hear was, I can fix you and you know, those are magic words. I was in pain and somebody, a neurosurgeon, said I could fix.
Dr. Densha operated on very Margalla off at Baylor Plano in early 2012.
I was in the swimming pool business for quite a few years. My philosophy was I really. Didn't want to ask my employees to do something that I was not willing to do myself, so I was up in the truck unloading with everybody else, just wear and tear for about 15 years of unloading trucks was what, Ditmir? Very first had surgery years earlier when he was in his 30s, when the pain returned a decade later, he went to his old surgeon that Dr.
Tilbury, all he needed was to get more exercise and lose some weight, that he didn't need surgery. But Barry wanted a quicker fix. So he asked his pain doctor to refer him to a neurosurgeon. And that's how he met Dr. Dunwich. And something that he said was. Read everything you can about me on the Internet, if you find anything bad about me, let me know. Maalouf could find nothing bad. I read everything I could about this guy.
So anything that we could find that we could read about him was all positive. People loved him. There weren't many. But Mark understood that Dr Densha was new. Barry's operation, like most of Dr. Dench's involved, disc's the shock absorbers that sit between the bones of the spine, Dr. Kirby was the vascular surgeon assisting dentist that day reading Barry mortgagors name. The morning of the surgery, Dr. Kirby realized something strange. He knew the patient. I met him in person one time and I had spoken to him on the phone about a dozen times.
More company took care of his pool.
Kirby met Dunshee at the sink as they scrubbed up. He was trying to tell me over and over again how most of the spine surgery here in Dallas was being done inappropriately and that he was going to clean this town up in a common spine operation. The neurosurgeon will remove your disease disc and insert hardware that fills the space and holds the two vertebra together. That was what was supposed to happen with Barry Margol of the operation is called an A..
Lumbar fusion in the spectrum of what a neurosurgeon does for a living. Doing an entire lumbar fusion procedure is probably the easiest thing that they do on a daily basis.
In a typical case, the surgeon would cut the disease disc out with a scalpel. But that's not how Dr. Dent did it.
He just started using a grabbing instrument called a double action to try to take the disc out. You can do the case that way, but you get into trouble because you start digging into the vertebral bodies on the other side of the disc and it causes a lot of bleeding.
In other words, he was gouging into the bone of the spine. I just said, like, listen, we've got to slow this down because we got bleeding. I said, you know, we just need to slow this case down and I want you to take a scalpel and cut this disc out because I could do the whole case myself and I offered to do. And I said, do you want me just to do this case? And then he goes, No, no, this is the I've done thousands of these cases.
And no, Randi, we really don't need you in the operating room.
He'd heard the hospital gossip about Dr. Dent that he didn't know his way around basic construction of the spine. But this was the first time he'd actually seen a dental surgery with his own eyes.
The rumors that I've been hearing for months were true, that he could not define regional anatomy and he could not operate. You know, he trained at a top tier neurosurgery and he trained in the top tier spinal fellowship. And so to see somebody flounder that badly. And so it was very disturbing. He walked out of the operation. I did make my feelings very clear. He told the hospital's chief of surgery what had happened, how incompetent he thought Dent was.
And after that, he figured a surgeon that bad wouldn't last long. But that's not what happened. Calling all sports fans sports wars covers some of the most epic rivalries in sports history, many of which have quite literally changed the game. And our final season is sure to pack a punch. Prepare to enter the octagon with bitter rivals Conor McGregor and Habib GNR Magomedov, two of the fiercest UFC fighters ever. Both are notorious for their intense battles, infamous pre fight feuds and a willingness to say or do anything to beat a hated rival.
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Woke up in a recovery room and felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I had never experienced pain of this type before. Denge prescribed him lots of pain medication. I had a background of opiate abuse many, many years ago. And as a result, I had created a lot more of opiate receptors. So it took a lot more of the narcotic to kill pain. He said that he had given me elephant doses of this narcotic and that he really couldn't get me any more.
OK, I understand the liability behind all this, but the pain was still there and the leg was getting worse. Just before Barry Margol off surgery, Dr. Dirnt had operated on a man named Lee Passmore that hadn't gone well either. The vascular surgeon in the room had tried to physically stop Tench from continuing. In fact, no patient after Lee Passmore would escape without injury has more. Surgery had happened two weeks after Chris wrote that email to Kimberly Morgan about becoming a cold blooded killer.
So Dr. Dirnt had all of these bad outcomes before he ever took a scalpel to his friend Jerry Summers. Immediately after the summer's surgery, with rumors churning, Baylor's CEO ordered both Dungy and Kimberly Morgan to take drug tests.
She goes, there's been accusations made by a patient about drug misconduct. She said, more specifically, Mr. Summers has said that about Apelles.
Kimberly had the drug test right away, but Dr. Stalled the first day he went in for the test.
He claimed he got lost on the way to the lab the next day. He said he forgot his I.D. in one attempt.
He said the lab was closed at four o'clock in the afternoon. Eventually, he took the test and it came back clean. Dench agreed to take a voluntary leave while Baylor investigated. They put him through psychological evaluation, which he passed after three weeks. He was cleared but told to stick to minor outpatient procedures. Meanwhile, Dr. Kirby had been asked to try to help Jerry Summers survive. When he saw the damage, he assumed that between Merkulov and Jerry Summers, this had to be the final straw for Dench's career.
Those two injuries occurring so close together are career enders on the Summers case, he completely destabilized Mr. Summers upper cervical spine, basically essentially decapitated him.
That in the loan is a career ending case, but for reasons I'll get into in the next episode.
It wasn't eye problems of Baylor Plano because they let him go back in the operating room unsupervised and operate on Kelly Martin.
Kelly Martin's procedure was supposed to be a simple outpatient surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve. It was so simple, at least in neurosurgery terms, that Baylor officials must have figured he would be OK flying solo. It should have taken about an hour. Dentist office manager BJ Ellison remembers her. Kelly Martin was the nicest lady.
And we we went the extra mile making sure she had M.S. And we talked to her rheumatologist, her her specialist.
Kelly was an elementary school teacher who also had multiple sclerosis. She'd tumbled off a ladder while fetching Christmas decorations down from her attic. She'd had back pain ever since and had to be on her feet a lot in the classroom.
The surgery blew past an hour, then it stretched to two, then three midway through the operation. Her blood pressure crashed, her pulse started to race. Once Kelly was wheeled into the recovery room, the nurses noticed her legs were mottled, splotchy, looking at the anesthesia wore off. She began to wail in pain. She slapped and clawed at her thighs. The medical staff had to sedate her doctor. Dun's came out and told her family that the surgery had had some complications, but all had generally gone well.
But it hadn't. Kim called me from the floor and she was she was not calm. She was on Beechey. She died. And I said, What is it? She died. And I said, What happened? And she said, I don't know what I do. I don't know. I can't talk. And then she told me that Kelly had had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia, and that was why she died. That wasn't true.
An autopsy would later find that Kelly Martin's abdomen had filled with blood. Dunwich had punctured a major vessel near her spinal cord. And as she lay silently in the recovery room, she had slowly bled to death. This all occurred in the months before Dunshee stint at Dallas Medical Center.
Now Baylor had another awful dunned case on their hands. The next day, they ordered a drug test. It came back as diluted, which means he likely put tap water in it. That's considered a failed test. Three days later, he had a test that came back clean, which doesn't really say much.
Cocaine generally clears the body after two to four days. Baylor investigated and determined that Dr. Denge had, quote, not met. Standard of care for Jerry Summers or Kelly Martin. Bureaucracy speak for saying he performed the operations horribly. Even so, they did not fire him or even report him to any state or federal authorities. Surgeons do make honest mistakes. They're human beings. Afterwards, there's usually soul searching, hand-wringing.
Dr. Henderson has consoled and consulted with a number of these surgeons over the years in these have been, once in a lifetime, devastating cases, not only for the patient, but for the surgeons. And I've seen surgeons who have just plain quit after having that one instance occur because they just think they couldn't bear to pick up the knife and risk injuring another patient to that degree again. So that's more of the norm. That is the norm rather than some of it is has complete disregard and complete lack of responsibility for their actions.
If Dench was aware at all that he was making catastrophic errors. It's not clear he felt any responsibility. When Barry Morgenroth got home from the hospital, his pain didn't get any better. He went back to Dr. two weeks later and found his office had moved. Thought it was strange because he was at this large hospital and then moved to a building of his own, so I didn't understand why that he would have, you know, corner office with a big window and then move to, like a little office complex.
But I figured he's bought the building himself. I didn't really know. So during one of these follow up visits, I was explaining to him the patent and he said, well, this is a new issue. We're going to have to go back and do another MRI. This has nothing to do with the work that I did. Eventually, he swallowed his pride and went back to his first surgeon, the one who had told him all he needed was to exercise and lose some weight.
That's where Barry learned that during the operation, all that digging into the vertebra had left bone fragments in his spinal canal, compressing a nerve root. Today, as scar tissue from his surgery builds up in Barry's body, he continues to lose function on his left side. Now nothing can fix him. I have an eight year old daughter. She was a one or two at the time of the surgery. And so she's never really known her dad to be whole.
It is extremely difficult emotionally to not be able to help her ride a bike, to hold the bike up and run beside her while she's trying to ride. I can't. Play soccer with her, I can't be a coach, I can't just there's so many things I can't do. Which brings us back to Ockham's Razor, the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true, that is Dr. Dirnt was just a horrible surgeon who was so blinded by his own arrogance, he couldn't see that trying harder and harder wasn't going to make him better or was the simplest explanation that he was an impaired physician, or maybe that he had a tortured mind that was unable to connect to reality.
Or maybe like he wrote in his email to Kimberly Morgan, he really was a cold blooded killer. Later in her deposition, Kimberly Morgan was asked about the email. What he's writing in his email suggest to you that perhaps he's not of the right state of mind to be operating on people's spinal cord. I don't have any experience or training to be able to answer your question.
She had been at his side from the time he opened his practice after Kelly Martin's death. She quit. He was crazy.
And and she just didn't want to be associated with him anymore. And she was done. She'd stuck with him and she'd had enough. Kim left the office and she left Dunwich. Kimberly Morgan moved on and so did Dr. Dench, Baylor didn't want him at their hospital anymore, operating on their patients. They got rid of him and solve their problem, but they didn't stop him from becoming someone else's doctor.
Henderson and Dr. Kirby were not about to let this go.
There were a number of practitioners here in Dallas who were calling down to the Texas Medical Board saying we have got a real problem with this neurosurgeon. They cannot operate in the actually, it doesn't even look like he's trying to operate correctly. It looked like he was trying to harm the patients on purpose.
That's on the next episode of Dr Death. Well, again, don't take in in. I hope you enjoyed the third episode of our six part series, Dr. Death.
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Dr. Death was written and hosted by me, Laura Beil, Sound Design by Jeff Schmidt. Story consultant is Jonathan Hirsch. Associate producer is Pallavi Catha Massood. Executive produced by George Lavender, Marshall Louis and Hernan Lopez, for one.