Stream On: First, do no harm–’Dr. Death’ and ‘Dopesick’

By on December 30, 2021

Life is short, the art long. (Hippocrates)

The classic Hippocratic oath, the oldest and most widely known treatise on medical ethics, distinguishes between the surgeon and the physician while exhorting both: “I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius the surgeon, likewise Hygeia and Panacea, and call all the gods and goddesses to witness, that I will … take care that [the sick] suffer no hurt or damage.”

If it were only that simple.

DR. DEATH (Peacock miniseries)

/Streaming /Trailer /2021 /TVMA

In medical drama, the rogue doctor usually breaks the rules in the service of a patient: bypassing protocols to prescribe unapproved medicines in hail-Mary attempts to save a life, for instance. Occasionally there are accounts of so-called “angels of death,” who sabotage patients before saving them dramatically in bids for heightened recognition, but real life generally provides us with the strangest stories. (I read once that author Tom Clancy wrote that fiction is harder to write because it has to seem to make sense, a stipulation that reality brushes aside as often as not.)

Young, charismatic and apparently brilliant, Dr. Christopher Duntsch (Joshua Jackson, The Affair), a rising star in the Dallas medical community, was building a flourishing neurosurgery practice, but patients entering his operating room for routine spinal surgeries are left permanently maimed or dead. As victims pile up, two fellow physicians (Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock, and Christian Slater, Mr. Robot) set out to stop him.

In the 1993 film Malice, Alec Baldwin played an arrogant doctor, who, in a chilling scene during an inquest, declares, “I don’t have a God complex—I am God!” In Dr. Death, Baldwin plays a good-guy, by-the-rules doctor who, with a dedicated but free-spirited colleague (Slater), aims to take down a surgeon who apparently thinks he is God. Based on a 2018 podcast of the same name, Dr. Death is about a real-life neurosurgeon, Christopher Duntsch, who has killed two patients and maimed others through a combination of egotism, hubris, incompetence and denial.

We follow Duntsch from college, where left-right discrimination problems cause him to be dropped from the football team, although in later life he describes himself as the star of the team—and seems to believe it.

An undeniably hard worker, his name appeared on several papers and patents, and he took part in a number of biotech startups. But by failing to follow through, Duntsch incurred over $500,000 in debt. Disastrously, he decided to turn to neurosurgery, which can be lucrative.

Dr. Death is the fascinating but disturbing tale of how Christopher Duntsch fell through cracks in the Texas and Tennessee regulatory medical frameworks until two physicians took notice, put together a case against him, and still failed to attract the attention of hospital administrators and medical boards.

In The Affair, Joshua Jackson played an antagonist in one person’s memories, who was revealed to be a protagonist, so as Dr. Duntsch he is able to slip effortlessly between apparent protagonist and actual, deadly, antagonist. Alec Baldwin and Christian Slater are also excellent as the odd-couple doctors who flirt with extra-legal solutions with which to keep “Dr. Death” out of the operating room. 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

DOPESICK (Hulu miniseries)

/Streaming /Trailer /2021 /TVMA

Dr. Death was about a malevolent surgeon; Dopesick is about how physicians can go wrong (with corporate help). Adapted from the nonfiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, this Hulu original series is about Purdue Pharmaceuticals (still in the news) and how they effectively reengineered the medical community’s approach to pain, allowing them to sell vast amounts of OxyContin after they also found their way past the Food and Drug Administration’s regulations with some ingenious loopholes.

In many ways Dopesick mirrors Dr. Death. Both are based on true stories, and here too there are two investigators, Assistant US Attorneys Rick Mountcastle (Peter Sarsgaard) and Randy Ramseyer (John Hoogenakker), who, after hearing several coinciding stories of OxyContin addiction, begin to investigate Purdue Pharma and are shocked at what they find.

They are shocked more when regulatory agencies and the Attorney General don’t want to hear it. DEA agent Bridget Meyer (Rosario Dawson, Unstoppable) independently comes to the same conclusions as Mountcastle and Ramseyer and joins the fray.

In 1996, black-sheep son Richard Sackler (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man, Boardwalk Empire, The Looming Tower, Fargo Season Three) is desperate to take the presidency of his family’s pharmaceutical company from his father, and systematically dismantles the obstacles standing in the way of widespread use of the company’s pain medication OxyContin, a narcotic.

From adding “pain” to the four medical vital signs (Body Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiration Rate, Blood Pressure) and convincing doctors to show a 1-10 pain chart to their patients, to nefariously contributing language to warning labels and coining the phrase “breakthrough pain” as a way to get doctors to increase dosages, Sackler’s campaign works only too well.

Michael Keaton plays the composite character Dr. Samuel Finnix, a traditional country doctor who falls for the hype, until over-prescribing Oxy to his patients (his friends) results in tragedy.

Creator Danny Strong has said that although the show’s action ends in 2007, the story continues, and he’d like to append a second season to what was originally conceived as a miniseries. 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roong

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


Sussex Development is soliciting bids to turnkey supply and install FF&E for the new Tulls Creek Elementary School, 125 Campus Drive, Moyock, NC27929. This project is a new ground-up 2-story, Pre-K thru 5th grade school, approximately 118,000 square feet. Bid documents may be obtained through Christopher West Interiors LLC. Request bid documents via email to interiors@cwiusa.com. Pre-Bid RFIs will be accepted via email until Wednesday, July 31, 2024 at 5:00PM EST. Pricing proposals are due Wednesday, August 14, 2024 by 5:00PM EST. All bids and inquires to be sent to interiors@cwiusa.com. Certified NC Hub, MBE, WBE, DBE, SBE are highly encouraged to participate. Sussex Development is an EOE and maintains a drug-free workplace.


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