San Diego man dies while getting wisdom teeth pulled

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SAN DIEGO – A San Diego entrepreneur died after a routine dental procedure in Temecula, his family said Monday.

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 10.16.06 PMMarek Lapinski, 25, died on March 21 when he underwent a procedure to extract two wisdom teeth.

Lapinski was the vice president and part owner of San Diego-based Tactical 3D Dimensions, company that develops software and hardware for night vision devices. Marek’s bright future was cut short after he went to see Dr. Steven Paul, an oral surgeon in Temecula, for wisdom teeth surgery.

Natalie Lapinski told Fox 5 that her brother had been nervous about the surgery in the first place.

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 10.15.52 PM“He was so scared to get this done,” she said. “That morning, he texted me and said ‘I’m going in.  I’ll call you when I’m out.’ I never heard from him again.”

Marek’s family provided Fox 5 with his medical records.  The ambulance report by American Medical Response showed Marek was undergoing surgery when he began to cough.

“When he coughed they administered propofol and that’s when he went into cardiac arrest,” his mother, April Lapinski, said.

He was immediately taken to the hospital, where he died.  The ambulance report also noted a piece of gauze was found in Marek’s airway.

“I was told by the hospital they weren’t sure if this was all caused from him choking on a piece of gauze,” she said. “Somebody was not paying attention at some point.”

Natalie Lapinski, who is a nurse, said in examining Marek’s medical records, she found her brother was given at least six different sedatives by the surgeon.


Marek and Natalie Lapinski

“In talking to the nurse at the hospital, from what they told me, he was given way too much anesthesia,” his sister said.

“The pulmonary doctor at the hospital told me it looked like an overdose to him,” said April Lapinski. “He had no health issues we were aware of. This was very strange and unexpected.”

Natalie Lapinski said in addition to the sedatives, she questions if her brother was properly monitored.

Medical records show instruments measured of Marek’s oxygen saturation levels every five minutes.  For the first 20 minutes of surgery, levels stayed at 99 percent.  At 25 minutes, there was no register.  At the last entry registered at 43 percent.

wisdom teeth death

Marek and April Lapinski

“He may have been without oxygen for 10 minutes,” his sister said.  “After a couple of minutes with no oxygen to your brain you just basically don’t have one anymore.  Those are just the facts.”

April Lapinski said Dr. Paul came to the hospital, but had no answers as to what happened.

Fox 5 visited the offices of Dr. Paul on Monday. We were told the doctor was in surgery and he would return our visit with a phone call.  The doctor never called.

The official cause of Marek’s death is pending an autopsy.  The Lapinski family said they plan to take legal action.

“This has just been our nightmare,” his mother said. “My family is having a really hard time with this.”


  • 91SandyCapale

    if this guy truly was "using and abusing" drugs like other people are saying, not sure i can feel that sorry for him…

  • Rob

    I am an oral surgeon. It is tragic that this happened and I will pray for Marek's family. Outpatient anesthesia in a board certified oral and Maxillofacial surgeon's office is safe, but there are risks with all surgery and anesthesia. This subject has been extensively researched and every study shows that the morbidity and mortality is extremely low. Even lower than general anesthesia in the operating room. And wisdom teeth often need to be removed. In fact, I frequently see patients with problems from retaining them. Just last week I had a patient spend several days in the hospital because of a life threatening infection from an impacted wisdom tooth. Not every wisdom tooth needs to be removed, but a trustworthy oral surgeon will advise you about the risks and benefits. And if you don't like the answers you are given then get a second opinion. I cannot begin to imagine the pain this family will experience and no apology or autopsy results or cash settlement will change that. I don't know what happened. Maybe it was malpractice. Maybe a reaction to medication. Possible reaction of anesthesia to drugs in a patient's system (and that is possible with anybody. Believe me, I know plenty of great people who are in recovery. Addiction is an epedimic!) But realize that when you read things like, "he was given way too much anesthesia" or "wisdom teeth don't need to be extracted; greedy rich doctors just want your money" or "dentists" (oral surgeons go to 4 years of dental school and another 4-6 years of surgical and anesthesia training so they are different than a general dentist) are killing people in their offices with propofol; stop and realize that doctors train for many years to practice safely. There is no conspiracy in the dental profession to provide unnecessary treatment. And I wake up every day and thank God I have been entrusted with people's health. I pray for my patient's before and after surgery and I pray that God will guide my hands. Lord, please make yourself known in this tragedy. Help the lapinski family as they grieve and cry out to you. And I pray you will help Steven Paul and his family deal with this nightmare.

  • Elizabeth

    I had all four of my wisdom teeth extracted many years ago, and everything went well. I am so sorry for the family, that something so terrible as this, happened to them. God Bless the family.

  • L's Mom

    This article really hurt my heart. My daughter was 25 when she passed away last year because of a brain aneurysm. There is no worse pain than that of losing a child. My prayers and condolences for the family. Their lives will never be the same.

  • G. Ken Weaver

    For some unknown reason Dentists are allowed to perform surgery and give anesthesia without an anesthesiaologist being present. In other than an extreme emergency just try getting any surgery in a hospital without an anesthesiologist present…IT IS AGAINST THE LAW!
    Yet Dentists are allowed to do this.
    "Oh it's simple, just a little laughing gas and poof its over before you know it"….and patients die from the lack of monitoring by an anesthesiologist every day!


    Sounds to me this office was wrong from the "GET GO". Too much medication, not monitored well, and AIRWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With this much sedation he needed help to maintain stable airway and to top it off when merek started to cough-airway should have been accessed. Very tragic and sad. My heart goes out to his dear loving family. May you all find comfort, peace and strenght that only god can truly give. PRAYING FOR YO ALL!

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