The Texas Med Spa IV Therapy Death: What You Need to Know

Posted By Madilyn Moeller, Thursday, October 19, 2023

IV therapy drip

Update 12/21/2023: On December 21, 2023, the Texas Medical Board amended its suspension order for Dr. Gallagher, the medical director of Luxe Med Spa, to allow Gallagher to practice anesthesiology. However, he remains restricted from practicing medicine in other forms, including supervising or delegating to others in all circumstances.

By Patrick O’Brien, JD

This past July brought news of the tragic death of a Texas woman, Jenifer Cleveland, after she received an IV therapy treatment at Luxe Med Spa by Amber Johnson in Wortham, Texas. On October 12, the Texas Medical Board issued an order temporarily suspending the license of Luxe Med Spa’s medical director, Michael Gallagher, MD, pending a formal hearing. The board’s order contains a number of additional facts that shed light on this tragedy and allege instances of failure to provide medical supervision.

According to the order’s finding of facts: Gallagher was based in Frisco, Texas, which is 106 miles from Luxe’s location. He was on site at Luxe on only three occasions: during the medical spa’s grand opening on May 6, again on June 10 and then finally on July 10, the day of the incident. The order does not directly say this, but based on the other facts listed, it appears that the July 10 visit was after or as a result of the patient’s death. The order also notes that Gallagher failed to implement policies and procedures. This includes having no protocols or standard operating procedures (SOPs) for IV services and only having an unsigned “medical director agreement” that documents the relationship with Luxe.

The board notes that Luxe’s “owner,” Amber Johnson, who also personally performed the IV treatment, does not hold any medical or health care license, and no other licensed health professionals were present on site. The patient received an IV infusion containing vitamin B complex, ascorbic acid, B12 and TPN electrolytes. The board notes that TPN electrolytes require a prescription to administer or purchase. These appear to have been purchased for the medical spa through an account using the medical director’s credentials.

According to the timeline presented in the order, the patient was found unresponsive shortly after the IV was started. Luxe’s staff initiated CPR and called 911. The EMS transported the patient to a local hospital, arriving at 12:17 p.m., with the patient being pronounced dead at 12:24 p.m. The diagnosis was given as unspecified cardiac arrest. The order notes that TPN electrolytes can cause complications due to the presence of potassium chloride, and early news reports indicated that the patient may have suffered from “mild cardiomegaly.” The family has requested an autopsy and official results are pending, according to the order.

The order notes that Gallagher did not establish a physician/patient relationship with the patient, which may indicate that the he did not examine or speak to Cleveland prior to the treatment, though it isn’t clear from the order. The order further states that Gallagher’s ordering of prescription medication to be administered by an unlicensed and unqualified delegate without adequate supervision, oversight or protocols presents a continuing threat to public safety. For these reasons, the board temporarily suspended Gallagher’s medical license without a notice of hearing. The temporary suspension remains in effect until an order is entered by the disciplinary panel after a formal hearing is held with the licensee.

As tragic as this situation is, it can serve as a reminder to other medical spas about the need for proper supervision and delegation when administering medical spa treatments such as IV therapy. The following previously published articles will help bring this issue into focus and illustrate the proper ways to create an environment at your medical spa that is safe for patients and compliant with state laws.

Initial news

Update to Laws Regarding IV Therapy in Medical Spas

IV Bars Target of Alabama Investigation

Mississippi Releases Guidance on IVs and Semaglutide

Who Can Do What in a Medical Spa?

Physician Supervision: Keeping the "Medical" in Medical Spas

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