Philip Mayfield was identified as one of the victims of Christopher Duntsch, the Texas physician nicknamed “Dr. Death” during his criminal trial. Mayfield went in for spinal surgery in 2013 to relieve back pain but was left paralyzed from the neck down immediately after the procedure. Mayfield died in February 2021 after contracting the coronavirus, his wife, Angela, explained on a GoFundMe account.
Duntsch’s case was chronicled in a new drama series for the Peacock streaming network. The eight-episode series Dr. Death debuts on July 15.
Mayfield Said He Believed Duntsch Hurt Him Intentionally
After serving in the Navy, Mayfield became a truck driver, as CNBC explained in an episode of American Greed. Mayfield told the network that many years of driving long distances and lifting heavy boxes caused chronic physical pain and tingling in his arms.
Doctors told Mayfield in 2012 that his severe back and neck pain could be fixed with an anterior cervical discectomy surgery, Esquire reported. Mayfield said he and his wife did research about the surgery and consulted with six different doctors over the course of nearly one year. They eventually settled on Duntsch to perform the surgery.
The Mayfields told American Greed that Duntsch confidently explained that he had performed this type of spine surgery thousands of times before without complications. He told Mayfield he would be back to work in 6 to 8 weeks.
The surgery was scheduled for April 9, 2013, and was supposed to take about 45 minutes. Angela Mayfield said Duntsch even told her the surgery had gone well as she waited at the hospital.
But the surgery, which had actually taken several hours, had not gone well. Angela Mayfield later explained on GoFundMe, “Philip awoke from surgery in severe pain and unable to move from his neck down, his spinal cord had been cut, intentionally.”
Mayfield was transferred to another hospital. As Esquire explained, a different doctor quickly concluded that Mayfield had been the victim of a “botched surgery.” The doctor told Mayfield his spinal cord had been damaged with a drill and that he would never walk again.
Two years later, when Duntsch was arrested, Mayfield was in the courtroom. A reporter for the Dallas Morning News asked Mayfield if he believed his injuries were the result of a “mistake” by Duntsch. Mayfield said he did not see it that way. Mayfield responded that he believed Duntsch had intentionally hurt him.
But Mayfield also chose not to hold a grudge. As Esquire reported, Mayfield said he forgave Duntsch “even though he hasn’t asked [me] for forgiveness, or said anything to any of the patients that were affected.”
Mayfield Experienced Severe Pain for the Rest of His Life But Kept Pushing to Recover
Mayfield regained movement in the years after the surgery. As Esquire explained, Mayfield was dedicated to physical rehab and eventually was able to walk with a cane. But he continued to experience paralysis on his right side and in his left arm, as well as shooting pain all over his body.
He underwent several more injuries and treatments over the years. Angela Mayfield explained on GoFundMe, “Philip has suffered with multiple complications including neurologic deficits, excruciating pain (CRPS 2), blinding headaches, fainting spells, dystonia, constant spasticity, dysautonomia, gastroparesis and much more. He has had several surgeries and is in need of ongoing medical treatments.”
In January 2021, Mayfield began a new treatment to relieve his pain. It involved infusions of ketamine and stem cell therapy, his wife said. But on the day of his third treatment, Mayfield was diagnosed with COVID-19. Angela Mayfield wrote that her husband was vulnerable “due to underlying issues caused by the surgeries.” He died on February 12, 2021.
Mayfield was only 50. He was survived by his wife and three sons.
Duntsch Is Serving a Life Sentence After a Jury Found Him Guilty of Paralyzing Another Patient
Duntsch was convicted in 2017 for paralyzing another surgical patient, Mary Efurd. Her spinal surgery left her as a paraplegic, CNBC reported. The doctor who took over her case after that surgery, Robert Henderson, told CNBC the severe damage done to Eford made him question whether Duntsch was really a physician. “I couldn’t imagine anybody who had taken an anatomy course in medical school doing this much damage,” Henderson said.
Duntsch was arrested in 2015. Prosecutors charged him with five counts of aggravated assault and one count of injury to an elderly person, according to the grand jury document filed in Dallas County. In 2017, a jury found Duntsch guilty and he was sentenced to life behind bars. As the Dallas Morning News reported, Duntsch will be eligible for parole in 2045
As ProPublica reported, Duntsch’s conviction was the first of its kind in the United States.
Police initially accused Duntsch of paralyzing at least four other patients and causing the deaths of two people, the Washington Post reported. A report published in D Magazine in November 2016 theorized the number of patients harmed while under Duntsch’s care may have been much higher. But prosecutors chose to narrow the scope and focus on one specific patient, Eford, during the trial, which resulted in the life sentence, as USA Today noted.
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