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Texas surgeon now facing criminal charges for surgical errors

There is an inherent trust between patients and their doctors in Texas. After all, medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care, and any breach of that duty could result in serious injuries or death. Most doctors and nurses act competently, giving their patients the care they need and deserve. Some medical professionals, though, act negligently, betraying the trust that has been instilled in them. When this happens and a patient is injured, then he or she may be justified in pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Many individuals did that after a North Texas neurosurgeon allegedly caused them serious bodily injury. Although reports indicate that fourteen patients sued the doctor during the two year span during which he practiced medicine, other accounts indicate there may have been as many as 34 patients injured while in his care. Two of those patients died during operations performed by the doctor.

Now, the doctor is going to trial for criminal charges related to his disastrous medical actions. This is quite rare, as in order to obtain a criminal conviction prosecutors must show that the defendant intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused the patient's injuries. This is often difficult to prove in the medical context, yet Texas prosecutors believe their 80 witnesses will show that the doctor grossly deviated from the acceptable standard of care.

It is important for Texans to recognize that criminal and civil cases adhere to differing burdens of proof. While a criminal prosecutor must show that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, to succeed on a civil medical malpractice claim a victim must only prove his case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that his side of the story must be more likely true then not. Therefore, even if a medical professional is acquitted of criminal wrongdoing, those same actions can serve as the basis for a medical malpractice claim where compensation may be sought.

Source: D Magazine, "Trial Begins Monday for Christopher Duntsch, Ex-Neurosurgeon Criminally Charged for Patient Harm," Matt Goodman, Jan. 27, 2017

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