A Texas anesthesiologist was arrested Wednesday and charged with tampering with a consumer product causing death and intentional drug adulteration.
Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr, 59, allegedly injected nerve blocking agents and other drugs into IV bags at a local surgery center between May 26 and August 24 causing multiple cardiac emergencies, including one death, the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas said.
The death was a fellow anesthesiologist at the clinic, 55-year-old Melanie Kasper, who died on June 21 after experiencing a medical emergency and treating herself with an IV saline bag she’d taken home from the surgery center, WFAA reported.
According to the US Attorney’s Office, an autopsy found that she died from a lethal dose of bupivacaine, a nerve-blocking agent used during administration of anesthesia. It is not often abused.
On August 24, an 18-year-old patient at the center had a cardiac emergency during a routine surgery. He was rushed to an intensive care unit and survived, and an analysis of the IV bag used during his surgery found the presence of bupivcain, epinephrine, and lidocaine.
Personnel at the center became suspicious and identified 10 other cardiac emergencies that took place “during otherwise unremarkable surgeries” between May and August. Most of the incidents took place during lengthy surgeries during which extra IV bags were retrieved from a bag warmer during the surgery. Personnel stabilized each of the patients with emergency measures.
According to the complaint, none of the incidents took place during Ortiz’s surgeries, and they began two days after he was notified of a disciplinary inquiry into an “incident during which he allegedly ‘deviated from the standard of care’ during an anesthesia procedure when a patient experienced a medical emergency.
All 12 identified incidents occurred around the same time Ortiz was working at the center, and none took place while he was on vacation.
Ortiz has a history of disciplinary actions, the complaint says, and he complained to other doctors that the center was trying to “crucify” him.
But the complaint offers further evidence against Ortiz, including a nurse who refused to use a bag obtained from a bag warmer during one of his surgeries. Additionally, the complaint says that surveillance video shows Ortiz putting IV bags into the bag warmer shortly before surgeries during which a medical emergency took place.
Ortiz faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. He is expected to make his initial court appearance on Friday.
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[Featured image: Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr/Dallas County Sheriff’s Office]