RALEIGH, N.C. — The medical director of a beauty spa who prescribed a powerful numbing gel blamed for the death of a college student should lose his license for six months, the North Carolina Medical Board recommended Wednesday.
Patients used the gel to prepare for laser hair removal.
Dr. Ira David Uretzky, an ear, nose and throat specialist at a Raleigh clinic, failed to take medical histories or perform physical exams before the prescription gel was given to spa clients, as required by law, the board charged. He also failed to give individual prescriptions for the gel, according to the board.
"I now know one thing that no doctor should ever do," Uretzky said. "No doctor should ever give free rein for their license; their license is their credit card."
Shiri Berg, 22, a student at North Carolina State University died of a lidocaine overdose Jan. 5 after she applied the anesthetic gel to her legs, officials said. Berg, a senior in biochemistry, planned to attend medical school.
Berg arranged for hair removal treatments at Premier Body Laser and Skin Clinic in Cary and spread the gel on her legs, then wrapped them in cellophane. She was found in her car by a passing motorist after having seizures on the morning of Dec. 28. She died nine days later.
Uretzky became medical director of the spa in November and ordered 142 tubes of the gel that were sold to the spa's customers, the board said. The board also heard testimony about health problems of other spa clients that may have been caused by the gel.
One patient was taken to WakeMed after putting on a high dose of the gel. Two others either passed out or became dizzy after applying it.
Uretzky's lawyer recommended suspending his client's license for 30 days while the board's council sought a suspension of two to four months.
In a short statement, Uretzky told the board the experience has taught him to "assume nothing and you question everything. If you're not satisfied you look into it deeper."
The doctor has until the board's next hearing in October to accept the six-month suspension. If he declines, the board will have another hearing where they could revoke his license.
David Kirby, an attorney for Berg's family, said the board's recommendation proves that they take the matter seriously.
"My client is devastated about what has occurred," Kirby told reporters.
Kirby credited Uretzky for his admissions, but called the case a comedy of errors.
In another matter, the board began hearing the case of Dr. Steve Olchowski, a surgeon accused of charging patients for one type of gastric bypass and then performing a simpler procedure that resulted in serious medical complications. Others say he performed the correct procedure but botched it.
The board found Olchowski guilty of charges including failure to give informed consent for the procedures, falsifying medical records, falsifying a specific patient's medical records and billing fraud.
So far, 22 lawsuits have been filed against Olchowski and he has surrendered his North Carolina medical license. A civil trial on some of the cases is scheduled to start in February.
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