According to a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office, a Dallas anesthesiologist was arrested Wednesday on federal criminal charges for injecting nerve blocking agents and other drugs into patient IV bags at a surgery center, causing the death of a coworker and multiple cardiac emergencies.
On Wednesday, Dallas Police in Plano, Texas, arrested Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr., 59, who is charged with tampering with a consumer product that caused death as well as intentionally adulterating drugs, the Dallas Police Department and United States Attorney’s Office reported.
It would be disconcerting to witness a single act of apparently intentional patient harm; multiple incidents would be even more disturbing. Our belief, however, is that this problem is limited to the arrest of one individual currently behind bars, US Attorney Chad E. Meacham said. Until he is held accountable, the Department of Justice and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations will continue to work tirelessly. Meanwhile, Dallas residents can undergo anesthesia safely.
On Friday, Ortiz will appear before a US Magistrate Judge in Dallas. If convicted, he faces a life sentence.
A lawyer was not listed for Ortiz as of Thursday afternoon.
According to the Texas Medical Board, the arrest followed a series of unexpected cardiac emergencies at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas.
In June, Dr. Melanie Kaspar, 55, died from laced IV bags mixed with Ortiz’s fluids at the surgery center.
She died immediately after using an IV bag of saline from the surgical center where she and Ortiz worked to treat dehydration, according to the criminal complaint. According to an autopsy report completed on or around August 24, she died as a result of a lethal dose of the nerve blocking agent bupivacaine, often used during anesthesia administration.
Another 18-year-old man was hospitalized for several days after surgery on August 24 due to unexpected complications.
The complaint states that investigators obtained several IV bags from the surgical facility and found two had small puncture holes in the clear plastic packaging.
Ortiz was connected to several of the incidents, according to the complaint, based on surveillance video. Ortiz, for example, is shown walking from an operating room to a bag warmer, placing a single IV bag inside, scanning the empty hallway, and then quickly leaving, according to the complaint.
During a scheduled cosmetic surgery shortly thereafter, a 56-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency after using a bag from the warmer, according to the complaint.
There would likely be video evidence of someone else handling IV bags if Ortiz wasn’t responsible for these events at the surgical facility. According to the video evidence, Ortiz placed single IV bags in the warmer exactly at the same time as adverse events under investigation.
In addition, investigators discovered that Ortiz was being investigated by the surgical facility on May 19 for allegedly deviating from standard practices with a patient, according to the complaint. On May 24, Ortiz was informed of the disciplinary inquiry, and the first cardiac emergency incident occurred later that same week, according to the complaint.
According to the criminal complaint, Ortiz became an anesthesiologist in Dallas in February 1991.
A disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended Ortiz’s Texas medical license on September 9 after learning of the accusations. According to the release, Ortiz’s continued practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Probe into doctor reveals more ‘unexpected cardiac emergencies’ The Dallas Morning News
- Dallas anesthesiologist tampered with IV bags, killing another doctor, prosecutors say CNN
- Police arrest North Texas doctor at center of IV bag tampering investigation FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth
- Texas anesthesiologist injected heart-stopping drugs in IV bags, killing 1, injuring 10: feds Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- Texas doctor arrested in connection to contaminated IV bags that killed a physician Fox News