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Texas Anesthesiologist Charged With Spiking IV Bags That Caused Death, Other Emergencies
Federal prosecutors alleged Raynaldo Ortiz spiked intravenous bags of saline with heart-stopping drugs, causing a coworker's death and nearly a dozen cardiac emergencies.
A Dallas-area anesthesiologist with a lengthy disciplinary record is accused of tampering with intravenous bags, resulting in one death and other major medical episodes.
Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. is charged with tampering with a consumer product and intentionally adulterating drugs after feds say he spiked IV bags at a surgical center in Dallas, according to a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The IV bags that Ortiz is accused of poisoning were “implicated” in the death of a coworker and in nearly a dozen “cardiac emergencies” between June and August 2022.
The name of the surgical center was not released by the Department of Justice, though a Texas Medical Board suspension order dated Sept. 9 states the alleged crimes took place at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare in North Dallas.
On or around June 21, feds say that one of Ortiz’s coworkers — a 55-year-old female anesthesiologist identified in court records as “M.K.” — “experienced a medical emergency and died immediately after treating herself for dehydration using an IV bag of saline taken from the surgical center.”
The criminal complaint stated she brought the IV bag home and died before emergency personnel could arrive. The New York Post identified the woman as Melanie Kaspar.
A postmortem examination revealed Kaspar died from a lethal dose of bupivacaine, a nerve blocker commonly used for local anesthesia.
Federal authorities say about two months later, on Aug. 24, an 18-year-old patient — listed only by his initials “J.A.” — was scheduled for a routine ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgery before unexpected complications arose. The patient’s heart began “beating out of control,” and his blood pressure spiked to 200/150, according to the criminal complaint.
Medical personnel administered CPR and saved the teen’s life, though he had to be transferred to an emergency facility and intubated.
A later examination of the IV bag — which should have contained only saline — revealed the presence of epinephrine (adrenaline), bupivacaine, and lidocaine.
“According to the complaint, surgical center personnel concluded that the incidents involving M.K. and J.A. suggested a pattern of intentional adulteration of IV bags used at the surgical center,” according to the Department of Justice.
Investigators later identified “10 additional unexpected cardiac emergencies” in patients during other routine surgeries in the summer of 2022, where medical personnel was forced to use emergency measures to keep the individuals alive, according to the release.
Medical personnel reported this was a “high and unnatural number of anesthesia complication in such a short period,” according to the criminal complaint.
Later reviewed surveillance footage from the surgical center showed Ortiz placing IV bags into warmers outside operating rooms in the hall. Follow-up inspections of the bags showed “visible tiny holes” in the plastic wrapping, according to the findings of the disciplinary board.
“When he deposited an IV bag in the warmer, shortly thereafter, a patient would suffer a serious complication.”
Investigators found that most of the incidents “occurred during longer surgeries” where more than one IV bag was required, “including one or more bags retrieved mid-surgery from a stainless steel bag warmer.”
Federal investigators noted Ortiz allegedly tampered with the bags after he was reported to the disciplinary board, according to the Department of Justice.
“The complaint alleges that none of the cardiac incidents occurred during Dr. Ortiz’s surgeries and that they began just two days after Dr. Ortiz was notified of a disciplinary inquiry stemming from an incident during which he allegedly ‘deviated from the standard of care’ during an anesthesia procedure when a patient experienced a medical emergency,” feds stated. “The complaint alleges that all of the incidents occurred around the time Dr. Ortiz performed services at the facility, and no incident occurred while Dr. Ortiz was on vacation.”
The criminal complaint cites Ortiz’s disciplinary history, which includes a November 2020 incident when a patient “suffered serious complications” after receiving anesthesia at a Garland, Texas facility where Ortiz also worked. Instead of having his license revoked, Ortiz surrendered his membership at the facility, according to the criminal complaint.
In 2022, a review by the Texas Medical Board for the 2020 incident found Ortiz failed to document critical events and said Ortiz “did not recognize the patient’s inadequate oxygenation and ventilation. He was ordered to re-take a medical jurisprudence exam, pay a $3,000 fine and be subject to extensive monitoring by a board-selected physician.
The criminal complaint said Ortiz was under investigation for a separate May 2022 incident in which Ortiz allegedly failed to maintain the patient’s airway.
In light of the investigations, Ortiz told fellow doctors that the facility was trying to “crucify” him.
“Our complaint alleges this defendant surreptitiously injected heart-stopping drugs into patient IV bags, decimating the Hippocratic oath,” stated U.S. Attorney Chad. E. Meacham. “A single incident of seemingly intentional patient harm would be disconcerting; multiple incidents are truly disturbing. At this point, however, we believe that the problem is limited to one individual, who is currently behind bars.”
Ortiz became a licensed physician in 1991, but his woes haven’t been limited to his alleged medical malpractices. According to the New York Post, Ortiz has been accused of multiple assaults against women and animal cruelty, the latter of which involved an incident in which he allegedly shot his neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun.
Ortiz is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver in Dallas on Sept. 16. If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison.