How 'Dr. Death' Left a Trail of Horror Across Texas Hospitals, Leaving 33 Patients Maimed or Dead

A new Oxygen series, License to Kill, explores the legacy of grievously injured patients left by Dr. Christopher Duntsch

Kellie Martin and her husband, Don, were taking Christmas decorations down from the attic of their suburban Garland, Texas, home in November 2011 when Kellie missed a step on a ladder and fell.

Her family doctor ordered an x-ray and diagnosed a herniated disk in her back. He gave the Martins a card for a neurosurgeon who was then establishing himself in the area, Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

The couple met with Duntsch, who confidently explained that minor, routine surgery would “fix it for good,” remembers Don. Because Kellie, 54, was an elementary school teacher who hoped to be healed in time for a summer Caribbean cruise, the surgery was scheduled for her March 2012 spring break.

But as Don sat at the hospital, expecting to take his wife home after recovery from what Duntsch had said would be a 45-minute procedure, his wait stretched to hours. Duntsch emerged to say there’d been complications.

Don, Kellie, Lauren, Caitlin, Martin
From left, daughters Caitlin and Lauren with mom Kellie and dad Don Martin. Courtesy Martin Family

“Is she going to be okay?” a worried Don asked.

“Yes,” Duntsch said.

Hours later Kellie was dead.

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As Duntsch stood silent while an ICU doctor delivered the devastating news, Don’s instincts as a police lieutenant kicked in. “I just knew by the way the doctors were reacting,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, “that something wasn’t right.”

Neurosurgeon Dead Patients
Dallas County Sheriff's Department via AP

The medical examiner confirmed it — Kellie had bled to death after Duntsch mistakenly sliced an artery — and then gave Don additional information: Duntsch earlier had operated on one of the coroner’s office employees and left the man paralyzed.

By the time the Dallas County district attorney’s office took count, those surgeries were among 33 out of 38 undertaken by Duntsch in less than two years that had gone wrong. Two patients had died. Another had been rendered a quadriplegic. Others survive with grievous, permanent injuries.

The case of Duntsch is explored in the premiere of the new Oxygen series License to Kill, premiering on June 23 (7 p.m. ET/PT). An exclusive clip is shown above.

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A medical establishment that, according to other doctors, did not act more quickly to stop Duntsch watched as he was criminally charged and went to trial in 2017. “No doctor had ever [before] been prosecuted for surgical behaviors,” says Michelle Shughart, the assistant DA who took the case.

License to Kill, premiers on Oxygen on June 23 (7 p.m. ET/PT). An exclusive clip is above.

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