Saturday, July 17, 2021

REVIEW: 'Dr. Death' - Henderson, Kirby and Shughart Detail Their Case Against Duntsch to the Jury in 'Hardwood Floors'

Peacock's Dr. Death - Episode 1.08 "Hardwood Floors"

Duntsch's victims confront him as Henderson, Kirby and Shughart set out to put him behind bars.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of Peacock's Dr. Death.

"Hardwood Floors" was written by Patrick Macmanus and directed by So Yong Kim

At what point would a reasonable person know that their actions are inflicting harm on another human being? That's the central question that must be asked in Duntsch's trial. The show has detailed just how hard it is to convict him for how he operated during his numerous surgeries. When the jury begins deliberations, Shughart truly doesn't know what they will decide. In fact, the audience doesn't truly get to discern the reactions these characters have to the verdict of guilty being delivered. It all plays out with Duntsch being sent to jail as text pops up sharing what happened to these people after this trial. It's only been a few years though. As such, most of them are still in these same positions in the Dallas area. Duntsch is in prison and isn't eligible for parole until 2045 when he'll be in his seventies. Meanwhile, the team that successfully led this prosecution against him are advocates for patients' rights. They are trying to break down the systems that allowed Duntsch to operate so freely for as long as he did. At the center of all of this is the understanding that Duntsch isn't unique whatsoever. He isn't the only person who slipped through the cracks because so many in this field prioritized their financial interests above the well-being of the public. The defense for Duntsch can craft the argument that it wasn't ultimately his responsibility for receiving poor training. It is easier to blame the systems that should have prevented him from inflicting more harm. They should have recognized that and stopped any of this from getting this bad. That removes any personal accountability from the situation whatsoever. Duntsch's actions cannot be ignored. As Shughart details in her closing argument, he should have realized that he was contributing to the pain and suffering of his patients. He only wanted to see the happy version of events. His journey with these patients ended the moment he completed their surgeries. The care doesn't stop there though. He has to be responsible for them every step of the way. It's not like he only interacted with them when he was cutting them open. He had conversations beforehand and helped convince them of the necessity of these operations. He advocated for himself as a brilliant surgeon. People bought into that idea because it could never be proven wrong. Everything written about him online praised him. He was one of the best doctors in Texas. It wasn't until the article was released labeling him as Dr. Death that the system cared about preventing his work. Duntsch is desperate to get back in the operating room though. Any action that prevents that isn't accurately representing his interests. He feels humiliated as his lawyer places the blame on his suboptimal training and skills. He always viewed himself as a genius who was going to change the world. He might have if he stuck to research. He can't be trusted with anything though. He is a cruel and twisted man who delighted in the suffering of others because it propped up his fragile male ego. That's not unusual or uncommon. This is an industry built around people who feel mightier than the average person. They are gods who can cut people open and heal them. It's intoxicating. It also requires a full understanding of oneself. Henderson knows that he could never operate again if he made a mistake like Duntsch did with just one of his patients. That would end his career and his ambitions in the field. Duntsch never came to that same conclusion. He never once thought that he needed to take a break to process the emotional toil of this loss. He wasn't ordered to do so either. He was given free range throughout this system. It's a world that's suppose to monitor itself and keep itself in check. That fundamental irresponsibility is failing so many people. This is just one example of the devastation that can occur. People need to trust their doctors. Medical error kills too many people. It creates too many complications. It needs to be addressed. This story shines a spotlight on these issues. It may hopefully inspire change. That may depend on how the series itself cuts through the clutter of the television marketplace. Overall, it wasn't the best execution of a series that demands to be noticed and recognized with accolades. The story is still important though. The acting did a lot of the heavy lifting. But again, this is much bigger than Christopher Duntsch. He is one example in what may be many. The public needs clarity in that regard. It may not be coming. That's a dire note even though the show issues a call to action to the audience at the end. Hopefully, that does serve as some inspiration somewhere.