NEW YORK CITY -- A New York man died in the Dominican Republic after going to the island nation for a liposuction procedure, according to WPIX.
Last week, 28-year-old Manuel Jose Nunez died after undergoing a liposuction procedure inside of the Caribbean Plastic Surgery Clinic in Santo Domingo.
Friends are mourning Nunez and searching for answers. "He was the life of the party,” said Jonathan Bahana, a friend of Nunez. “Which is why we were really shocked to learn how things escalated."
Norka Rodriguez, one of Nunez's closest friends, was on FaceTime with other friends who were inside the recovery area of the clinic and was able to see Nunez over the phone after the surgery. “They said it was normal for him to look like he's not breathing,” Rodriguez said of the nurses at the clinic.
Bahana was in the room when Rodriguez got the video call. "He didn't look healthy. He didn't look so well," Bahana said. "He wasn't responding to any of their two voices."
It soon became clear that Nunez had died.
Though the doctor who performed the surgery wasn't licensed to perform plastic surgery, the clinic's advertising looks for clientele in the United States. An ad from 2018 says in Spanish, "We will pay your airfare and seven days in a recovery house," and adds that the promotion only applies to U.S. residents.
Caribbean Plastic Surgery acknowledged Nunez's death in a statement. "The patient had difficulty breathing. We immediately attempted to revive him," the clinic said to local media. "He died of respiratory distress."
Dominican newspaper el Caribe identified the doctor who performed the procedure as Dr. Oscar Polanco. According to the newspaper, Polanco is a gynecologist, not a plastic surgeon.
Last year, a Dominican court ordered Polanco to pay 23 million Dominican pesos to the families of two women who died in 2015 after he operated on them. However, criminal charges were dropped, due to a lack of evidence.
In 2016, Polanco was charged with manslaughter after a 24-year-old woman died after he performed liposuction on her. That case is currently working its way through the courts. The medical center Dr. Polanco worked at at the time of those three cases was eventually shut down.
The family tells WPIX news they are waiting for the autopsy from Dominican authorities before deciding whether or not to file charges.