'Dr. Death': AnnaSophia Robb on Playing ADA Michelle Shughart

Dr. Death is a new true-crime series on Peacock about the story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch. The former neurosurgeon is currently serving a life sentence for the maiming of Mary Efurd, one of the many patients he left with life-changing injuries after botched surgery.

In total, 33 of Duntsch's 38 patients were injured. Two of them, Floella Brown and Kellie Martin, died, while his friend, Jerry Summers, was left a quadriplegic.

Speaking to Newsweek, AnnaSophia Robb, who played Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Michelle Shughart in the series, shared her opinion of Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

"I think it's narcissism and maybe even a sociopathic [tendency]. I don't know. I feel like he thought he was a really good doctor and I think some of his surgeries were on purpose because he was angry or power-hungry and others were just botched." she said.

"I think it probably depended on the patient because there were also a handful of surgeries that were fine."

Shughart took on the case after spine surgeon Dr. Robert Henderson (Alec Baldwin) and vascular surgeon Dr. Randall Kirby (Christian Slater) urged the Dallas County district attorney's office to pursue criminal charges against Duntsch.

In July 2015, approximately a year and a half after his medical license was revoked, Duntsch was arrested in Dallas and charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five counts of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury, and one count of injury to an elderly person.

Robb said: "Michelle [Shughart] put all the puzzle pieces together to create the case basically. She is a very sweet but strong woman, fiercely intelligent, very kind."

The charge of one count of injury to an elderly person related to Duntsch's patient Mary Efurd, who went under Duntsch's knife in 2012, the day after Floella Brown's surgery.

Dr. Henderson was called to do repair surgery on Mary Efurd at Baylor Plano in 2012, two days after Duntsch had operated on her. During the operation, Henderson found drilled holes and screws in her spine that were in the wrong place.

The botched operation left Efurd in excruciating pain and wheelchair-bound. D Magazine details how Efurd's nerve root had been "severed," her spine "pockmarked with screw holes," and a screw had been lodged in another nerve root at the bottom of her spine.

Shughart and her team put a high priority on the charge of injury to an elderly person, as it carried the widest sentencing range, including life. During the trial, Shughart argued thart Duntsch's maiming of Efurd was intentional.

Before her operation, he had injured several other patients. Kellie Brown had died and Floella Brown was dying from her surgery the day before. His failure to learn from his past mistakes suggested he knew he was likely to hurt people again.

The prosecution also argued that Duntsch was motivated to continue operating to solve his growing financial problems.

In her closing statement, Shughart said: "This defendant single-handedly ruined their lives, and he gave each of them a life of pain.

"So why didn't he stop? Because of greed. Because he owed people a lot of money. He wanted to live the high life and a neurosurgeon makes big bucks. Why didn't he stop? Because he had no conscience. He doesn't care what he has left in his wake."

She also called several of Duntsch's patients to testify with the aim of proving Duntsch's actions were intentional and accused him of causing the death of two patients between July 2012 and June 2013, CBS News reported.

Shughart also put forward a December 2011 email, which Duntsch sent to his assistant Kimberly Morgan before he had carried out numerous botched surgeries including those on Mary Efurd, Kellie Martin, Lee Passmore, Barry Morguloff, Jerry Summers, Floella Brown, Jacqueline Troy, Philip Mayfield and Jeff Glidewell.

Shugart argued the contents in the email proved Duntsch's actions were intentional.

In the email, Duntsch wrote that he was ready to become a "cold-blooded killer."

Contents of Frightening Email

As seen in Dr. Death and heard on the Wondery podcast, the email read, "Anyone close to me thinks that I am something between God, Einstein and the anti-Christ because how can I do anything I want and cross every discipline boundary like it's a playground and never lose.

"Unfortunately, you cannot understand that I am building an empire and I am so far outside the box that the Earth is small and the sun is bright.

"I am ready to leave the love and kindness and goodness and patience that I mix with everything else that I am and become a cold-blooded killer."

Duntsch's defence argued he was unaware of how badly he was performing in surgery and blamed his poor training and the lack of oversight by the hospitals where he worked.

Duntsch was found guilty by the jury and on February 20, 2017, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Message of True-Crime Drama

Reflecting on Dr. Death and the message of the true-crime drama, Robb shared: "People will be drawn to [the story] because it's terrifying. They are like 'well I have a back issue and what if I go in and this happens to me?' I think immediately we are like 'I don't want to be that person' and that is fascinating.

"I also think it is important now as we are looking critically at our institutions and structures and questioning are they protecting us or are they making things worse? What is broken and what is fixable? What needs some work?

"This is a true-crime [series] but it's also about whistleblowing. It's about Henderson and Kirby blowing their whistle and saying 'there is something wrong here and people need to be held accountable. It's not just this one doctor, why aren't the institutions and these hospitals holding him accountable and stopping them when they are the ones in power?'

"I think as a society we are looking for that reckoning and the real doctors and Michelle Shughart really want this to be a conversation where people watch this and get involved."

Dr. Death is streaming on Peacock now.

AnnaSophia Robb Dr Death
AnnaSophia Robb portrays Michelle Shughart in "Dr. Death" on Peacock Barbara Nitke/Peacock