It’s been an active year for neurosurgeons and the criminal justice system. 

Dr. Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison for knowingly and recklessly injuring patients. Thirty two patients were involved. Two were killed. Two were paralyzed. Duntsch’s attorneys argued he was not a criminal; just a bad surgeon. Admitted into evidence was an email he sent his girlfriend…

“What I am being is what I am, one of kind, a mother f***ing stone cold killer that can buy or own or steal or ruin or build whatever he wants.” 

This probably did not help his case.

D Magazine published an extensive investigative piece called Dr. Death…The story of a madman with a scalpel. It’s a long read. Someday it will be made into a movie.  

Then we have Aria Sabit, a spinal surgeon who admitted to unnecessary and fake operations. He was sentenced to 20 years. Nearly 30 of his California patients – operated on over an 18 month stretch – later sued him for malpractice. During those 18 months he accounted for 70% of all patients unexpectedly re-admitted to his hospital following surgery. In early 2011, he moved from California to Detroit. There, he “performed” spinal fusion surgery with metal instrumentation, but subsequent diagnostic imaging revealed that he never installed the hardware, just bone dowels, and never achieved fusion. Now, that’s an oversight. 

Dr. Sabit apparently did express remorse. “I came from absolutely nothing to become a neurosurgeon and squandered the opportunity,” Dr Sabit said. “I do not deny my guilt.”  

And, finally we have Dr. James Kohut, a California neurosurgeon who was allegedly accused of 10 child molestation charges, including 6 sex acts with children under the age of 10. At his first court appearance, his attorney denied the allegations. No details were disclosed. And, who knows, a jury may ultimately find him not guilty by the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

We’re getting close to a quorum for journal club. 

So, what do you think? Why are so many neurosurgeons in – or potentially headed to – jail?

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