North Carolina dentist permanently surrenders license after investigation into patient's death

Leland, N.C.-based oral surgeon Mark Austin, DDS, surrendered his license to the State Board of Dental Examiners after the board's investigation into a patient's August 2020 death, NBC affiliate WECT reported Aug. 16.

An investigative panel for North Carolina's State Board of Dental Examiners found Dr. Austin’s actions resulted in the death of Henry Patel, MD, a 53-year-old cardiologist affiliated with Cape Fear Heart Associates in Wilmington, N.C.

Dr. Patel reportedly visited Austin Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Leland in July 2020 to receive a dental implant. According to the board's consent order, Dr. Austin administered anesthesia and sedatives to Dr. Patel before and during the procedure. During the procedure, Dr. Patel's oxygen saturation levels and heart rate dropped. Dr. Austin first attempted to ventilate Dr. Patel before unsuccessfully attempting to input an endotracheal tube to assist Dr. Patel's breathing, the order said. He then called 911, but Dr. Patel no longer had a heartbeat by the time emergency service personnel arrived.

While medics were able to restart Dr. Patel's heart, he was ultimately placed in an intensive care unit and diagnosed with "irreversible anoxic brain injury" before dying on Aug. 3.

The consent order signed by Dr. Austin and the state dental board prevents Dr. Austin from practicing dentistry in North Carolina. The consent order points out that Dr. Austin denies violations of regulations and standard of care and that his actions resulted in Dr. Patel's death, but that he "freely and voluntarily acknowledge[s] that the Board has sufficient evidence to prove and establish the findings of fact and conclusions of law and to warrant the order of discipline."

Investigators also allege that Dr. Austin prescribed controlled substances to staff members and did not keep records tracking substances in his offices.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is reportedly also investigating criminal violations against Dr. Austin.

Dr. Austin declined requests for comment by WECT, and his attorney did not return the news outlet's requests for comment.

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