Local News

Doctor Linked to Spa Lidocaine Death Reprimanded

Posted August 15, 2007

— A physician connected to a Raleigh spa that administered a fatal dose of lidocaine to a North Carolina State University student two years ago agreed Wednesday to a reprimand by the North Carolina Medical Board.

Shiri Berg, 22, died Jan. 5, 2005, about a week after lapsing into a coma following seizures. Authorities determined she overdosed on lidocaine, which was in an anesthetic gel she had applied to her legs in preparation for hair removal treatments at Premier Body Laser and Skin Clinic in Raleigh.

Dr. Samuel Wurster obtained the lidocaine for Premier Body and established a protocol where spa patients could get it without a prescription or a physical exam.

Wurster, who now practices in Chicago and wasn't at the medical board meeting, agreed Wednesday to be reprimanded by the medical board and will not supervise another laser hair removal procedure in any state.

"I think, importantly, he agrees that he will not supervise laser hair removal services in this state or any other state as a medical director," said Brian Blankenship, an attorney for the medical board.

Wurster's North Carolina medical license expired on July 25, and the agreement allows the board to reject any effort to renew the license based on the Berg case without allowing him to appeal the decision.

Blankenship said the reprimand and the license suspension of Dr. Ira David Uretsky, another physician connected to the spa, alerts doctors and patients that laser hair surgery is a serious medical procedure that carries health risks.

"Most people don't think about a topical taking your life," said Melissa Smith, a local electrologist who lobbied for a new law that aims to make the procedure safer.

"With (Berg's) death, it really sprung a lot of nerves," Smith said. "We decided that something needed to be done to protect the consumer."

Under the law, which takes effect Oct. 1, laser hair practitioners must complete a minimum of 30 hours of laser training at a board-certified school and renew certification annually.

"We have dramatically tightened standards, and I think the board's actions have put other doctors and patients on notice that this is not something to be taken lightly," he said.

The medical board also adopted tougher guidelines for laser hair removal procedures.

Medical directors at clinics performing the procedures now have to give clients physicals before their first procedure, give them instructions when dispensing prescriptions and provide more oversight.

"We have changed the standard. I think doctors and people receiving laser hair services did not take this seriously enough," Blankenship said. "I think, unfortunately, the Shiri Berg case demonstrated the tragic consequences of not treating this as a medical procedure, which is what it is."

In August 2005, the state medical board recommended that Uretzky, the medical director of Premier at the time of Berg's death, should lose his license for six months. The board alleged that he failed to take medical histories or perform physical exams before spa clients obtained the prescription gel.


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  • findoutthefacts Aug 17, 2007

    "you are focusing on your opinion as to what this lady did or did not do, none of which you can prove. Instead of, focusing on the facts of the case.."

    Exactly - No one knows what the hell happened cause the girl put the fatal dose on at home by herself. So you have no idea what happened either. But we do know that the actions that she physically carried out caused her death. If she needed a babysitter for that, she shouldn't have had the procedure done.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 17, 2007

    Doctors licenses get suspended when the medical board has to do something to appease people like YOU. If it were real negligence on the doctors part, he would have lost his license.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 17, 2007

    And you never even went to this clinic and you want to tell me what went on there????

    My comments mysteriously disappeared when I realized you were one of "those people" who blame everybody else.


  • jeebk04 Aug 16, 2007

    Doctors state medical licenses do not get suspended b/c their patient "did not follow directions".
    It is interesting that when this lady's friend posted yesterday, your comments mysteriously disappeared...

  • jeebk04 Aug 16, 2007

    findout, were u there at this lady's visit to make sure she had all the same things done that you did? No, you weren't. And, it has been documented, and a confession made, that protocols and procedures that should have been were not. If this doesn't tell you what the deal is, nothing will. Your visit would be considered hearsay and irrelevant in a court of law, just as it is in my mind.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 16, 2007

    That is the difference between a communist society and ours, as the point I was making before. Having the right to choose and not be regulated because of isolated incidents caused by those who don't pay attention.

  • findoutthefacts Aug 16, 2007

    Fine, we don't have to use a prescription pill as an example. How many people, when doctors prescribe them a TOPICAL CREAM or solution, go to the doctor every time it has to be applied?

    I appreciate being treated as an adult (and as everyone over 18 is classified)and being given the option to have had the staff at this establishment either apply the lidocaine or sign a waiver to do it myself if I so choose. But if the waiver is signed and you take it upon yourself to do it, then accept the possible outcomes as your personal responsibility.

  • jeebk04 Aug 16, 2007

    snooz, the "occlusion" of the areas she applied the skin to had NOTHING to do with her death. No where, anywhere, had stated that the "plastic wrap" caused her death. She died from OD, b/c she was given a prescription gel, with no prescription, by a doc who had not registered with the pharmacy board, no supervision.

  • jeebk04 Aug 16, 2007

    luv, you need help, to sit up here and make fun of this tragedy.

  • jeebk04 Aug 16, 2007

    independent thinker, exactly.

    historian and elcid, what in the world?