‘Dr. Death’ is a crime drama series that is every bit as sinister as its name. Following the appalling desertion of his Hippocratic Oath, the show’s lead protagonist, a surgeon, leaves a trail of dead and permanently handicapped patients in his wake as his colleagues scramble to bring him to justice. The task proves more complicated than expected, and the show portrays with gut-wrenching detail how the sadistic surgeon callously hurts his victims as they lie on the operating table before him. The series’ opening episode wastes no time and introduces us to many of Dr. Duntsch’s colleagues and victims, as well as gives us a peek into his own sociopathic habits. Brace yourselves for an especially gruesome dive as we dissect ‘Dr. Death’ episode 1. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Dr. Death Episode 1 Recap
The episode opens with Dr. Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) describing a revision surgery he has had to perform after one of Dr. Duntsch’s patients came out of her operation complaining of severe pain and was unable to move her legs. Upon observation, Robert finds that his colleague has smashed parts of his patient’s spinal cord and also left bone fragments inside her soft tissue. Appalled, he approaches Dr. Randall Kirby (Christian Slater), who has worked with Chris (Dr. Duntsch) in the past and has his fears confirmed. According to Randall, the surgeon in question botched a relatively straightforward operation that they undertook together and has since harmed two more patients, leaving one permanently paralyzed and the other dead.
We then see Chris confidently reassuring one of his patients, a 72-year-old teacher named Rose Keller, who has remained loyal to him despite his inexplicable move from Baylor Medical Center to the Dallas Medical Center, where he has just started operating. Rose’s subsequent surgery, though successful, lasts much longer than it should and incites the suspicions of a young circulating nurse named Josh, who also notices other irregularities like the doctor’s torn scrubs that he keeps reusing. We are also given a brief glimpse into the sociopathic surgeon’s background as we see his religious father, who warns his son of being too egotistical. Chris also seems to be obsessed with his former colleague Dr. Kim Morgan and stalks her, sitting in his car outside her house on more than one occasion.
Dr. Death Episode 1 Ending: How Many Patients Has Christopher Duntsch Harmed?
We then see Christopher perform surgery first on Rose Keller and then on Dorothy Burke. Both procedures are excruciating, and his assistants in the operating theatre look on in disbelief as the surgeon abandons regular procedures and instead takes barbaric steps of his own choosing. Josh attempts to intervene but is roughly told to mind his own business. In the closing scenes of the episode, after an argument with Kim the previous night, Chris shows up drunk at the hospital and orders Josh to “prep” the operating theater for his next surgery, despite his previous patient Dorothy suffering from complications following her own procedure.
Over the course of just 1 episode, we see the inexplicably brutal surgeon destroy the lives of multiple patients. The first victim we are introduced to is Madeline Beyer, who suffers from excruciating pain following her surgery under Chris. It is while he is treating her that Robert realizes just how badly Chris has damaged the area around her spinal cord, leading to partial paralysis.
The sadistic surgeon then operates on Dorothy Burke, who he leaves dangerously bleeding on the operating table while his concerned underlings look on. We learn the next morning that Dorothy is in critical condition following her surgery, which is made all the more sickening because of the confident assurances Chris gives her concerned husband before the procedure.
Another one of his patients, who surprisingly seems to be recovering well (according to Josh), is the 72-year-old teacher Rose Keller, who has a herniated disc. Chris assures her that she will be doing cartwheels in no time but then spends an excruciatingly long time operating on her, much to the concern of the young nurse. Apart from the three women we see, Dr. Randall also mentions a botched procedure that he assisted Chris on.
We also hear the mention of two more of his patients, one of whom is now paralyzed while the other is dead. Hence, so far, we know of at least 5 patients that have gone under Chris’ scalpel, out of which 3 seem to have been drastically harmed, and one is dead. Rose Keller seems to be the only patient as of now who has not come out worse for being operated on by the suspicious surgeon.
Is Christopher Duntsch Harming his Patients on Purpose?
Chris, despite his patient history, is a confident doctor who comes across as exceedingly brilliant. In a brief conversation with the hospital administrator Jill, he claims to be working on a cure for cancer using stem cells, something he describes as quite simple, much to her surprise. He also seems to have a ready answer whenever any of his botched surgeries are brought up, pinning the blame on other members of the team like the anesthesiologist. Things are made all the more confusing when his previous supervisor, in a conversation with Bob, claims that Chris had as good a work ethic as any and refuses to say anything against the surgeon.
However, our biggest clue that Chris is, in fact, botching up the surgeries on purpose is his overwhelming confidence. Any responsible doctor with a patient record as poor as his would not have the confidence to claim that he never makes mistakes. Chris does this multiple times as he pompously reassures his patients. He also lets slip to Jill that his surgeries earn millions of dollars before quickly correcting himself. Therefore, it starts to become quite clear that he is botching the surgeries on purpose. He has also shown himself to be highly knowledgeable, meaning that a lack of expertise is not what is hindering his performance.
Tellingly, his “victims” all seem to be elderly women. Therefore, it looks like Chris goes after especially vulnerable people, making his actions all the more suspicious. Near the end of the episode, his callous approach towards his profession is also clearly shown when he arrives drunk (or badly hungover) to a surgery wearing dirty scrubs.
Who is Kim Morgan?
Kim is a former colleague of Chris’ who, it seems, worked quite closely with him. She is mentioned by Rose Keller, who asks about her whereabouts during a visit to discuss her surgery, to which Chris calmly replies by saying that she has moved away. However, we later see him lingering outside her house on multiple occasions and even hovering over her name on his phone, pointing to a possibly deeper connection.
When we finally see Kim, she is upset to find Chris outside her house and reminds him of the court order she has against him. She also seems to know about his unethical practices and is appalled when she realizes that he is still operating on people. Chris refuses to acknowledge any of her accusations but is left standing speechless when she threatens to get him imprisoned if he approaches her again. It is, therefore, quite likely that Kim knows a lot about Chris’ sinister proclivities but has not come forward with the information yet.
Read More: Where is Dr. Death Filmed?