The Birth – and Afterlife – of Podcast Dr. Death

Popular Wondery podcast Dr. Death focuses on a former neurosurgeon, Christopher Duntsch, accused in the maiming and deaths of 33 patients. Duntsch was ultimately taken down by Texas personal injury lawyer Kay Van Wey, and their story is now being turned into a limited series at UCP starring Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater. Van Wey talks to Cynopsis about how it all came about.

What was the genesis of the podcast? What was your motive in participating?

I was approached by [host and journalist] Laura Beil. She came to my office and we sat in my conference room. I really didn’t realize it was as big of a deal as it turned out to be because it was just me, Laura, a microphone and a tape recorder. 

My motive for participating was to bring awareness to the issues that caused all of these patient injuries to begin with. Dr. Duntsch wasn’t the originator of the problem with impaired physicians and the story did not end with him. This is an ongoing problem which needs to be addressed.

You come from a law career – what has this experience taught you about the entertainment business?

I have learned the power of the media. I handled a case a decade before the Dr. Duntsch cases which involved a cocaine addicted spine surgeon who maimed many people. Those cases received local and national media attention, but podcasts had not yet been invented. The power of the Wondery Podcast, Dr. Death, has reached tens of millions of people and has brought tremendous public awareness to the issue.

I think journalists and trial lawyers have a lot in common. Both professions require creativity, good research and storytelling skills. 

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