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Jailed Texas Neurosurgeon and Gag Orders

Unless you have been literally living under a rock, you've surely heard the story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, the jailed Texas neurosurgeon who was recently sentenced to life in prison for deliberately maiming and killing several patients. Lots and lots of media coverage, but you may have not seen the following in the torrent of news stories:

"But patient advocates and the surgeons that mobilized to rid him of his license say that Duntsch was the perfect storm. Nobody stopped him soon enough. The hospitals didn't do their due diligence until it was too late, and those who could've spoken up didn't. Every patient mentioned in this story who has sued, except for Passmore, has settled. They all signed nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from discussing their cases or their monetary awards. As one lawyer told me off the record, they faced an almost impossible dilemma: settle and give their families a financial cushion for the future medical costs but sacrifice their right to tell their stories."

That quote was taken from an article entitled "Dr. Death" which appeared in D Magazine, (D is short for Dallas). Here is a link for the full might be the most in-depth story about Dr. Duntsch.

So, according to the article, Dr. Duntsch's vicitms had to sign nondisclosure agreements, or gag orders, in order to get money. Take your loot and keep your mouth shut. Wow....

At Sorry Works!, we've been trying to get a better understanding of gag orders over the last year. We've issued several calls for folks to share their stories and insights, and have learned much. Our goal is to publish a paper later this year on this important subject. However, I can share a few insights which appear to be germane to the tragedy of Dr. Duntsch. I have heard from several patients and families who, like Dr. Duntsch's victims, were literally forced to sign gag orders in order to receive reasonable compensation. I have heard from more than one plaintiff's attorney who stated these gag orders are legally binding contracts that, if you sign one, should be honored. On the flip side, several risk managers and defense attorneys have told me they would never dream of enforcing a gag order, because doing so would drag up all the bad care that led to the lawsuit in the first place, lead to lots of bad media coverage, the judge would laugh them out of court, etc.

So, what do you think would have happened had one of Dr. Dutsch's vicitms spoken up, even after signing a gag order? What are your experiences with gag orders? What's bad? What's good? What can be changed, and how?

I want your opinion...I can be reached at 618-559-8168, or e-mail at or All information will be kept confidential unless you state otherwise.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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