DALLAS (TBEN) – More details are coming to light59.
He is accused of injecting nerve blocking agents and other drugs into patients’ IV pouches at the Baylor Scott & White Surgicare Center.
In a statement Wednesday, the health care system — which suspended operations at the North Dallas facility on Aug. 24 — said, “There is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of those we serve.”
Ortiz was arrested Wednesday in Plano on federal criminal charges, according to the United States Law Office for the Northern District of Texas. He was charged through a criminal complaint with tampering with a consumer product that caused death and intentional counterfeiting of drugs. Ortiz will make his first appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver in Dallas at 10 a.m. Friday
“Our complaint alleges that this defendant surreptitiously injected anticoagulant drugs into patients’ IV bags, decimating the Hippocratic Oath,” said U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham. “A single incident of apparently intentional harm to the patient would be troubling; multiple incidents are really troubling. However, at the moment we believe the problem is limited to one person, who is currently behind bars. The Justice Department and “Our tireless partners at the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the Dallas Police Department will work tirelessly to hold him accountable. In the meantime, it’s safe to undergo anesthesia in Dallas.”
According to the indictment, Melanie Kaspar, a 55-year-old colleague of Ortiz’s, suffered a medical emergency on June 21 and died immediately after treating herself for dehydration using a saline IV bag taken from the surgery center. An autopsy report revealed that she died from a lethal dose of bupivacaine, a nerve blocking agent rarely abused but often used during anesthesia administration.
Two months later, on Aug. 24, an 18-year-old male patient, identified in court documents as JA, experienced a heart failure during routine sinus surgery. The teen was intubated and transferred to a local ICU. Chemical analysis of the fluid from a saline bag used during his surgery revealed the presence of bupivacaine, epinephrine (a stimulant), and lidocaine, drugs that could have triggered the patient’s sudden symptoms.
According to the complaint, surgical center staff concluded that the incidents involving Kaspar and the teenage victim suggested a pattern of deliberate counterfeiting of IV bags used at the surgical center. They identified 10 additional unexpected cardiac emergencies that occurred during otherwise unremarkable surgeries between May and August 2022, which the complaint claims is an exceptionally high rate of complications in such a short period of time.
In each of those cases — which the researchers said happened on or about May 26 and 27; June 27; July 7, 15 and 18; and August 1, 4, 9 and 19 – medical personnel were only able to stabilize the patient with the help of emergency measures. Most incidents occurred during longer surgeries where more than one IV bag was used, including one or more bags withdrawn from a stainless steel bag warmer midway through surgery.
The complaint alleges that none of the cardiac incidents occurred during Ortiz’s surgeries, and that they began just two days after Oritz was notified of a disciplinary investigation over an incident in which he allegedly “deviated from the standard of care” during an anesthesia procedure when a patient experienced a medical emergency. The complaint alleges that all incidents occurred around the time Ortiz was providing services at the facility, and no incidents occurred while Ortiz was on vacation.
The complaint further alleges that Ortiz, who had a history of disciplinary action against him, expressed concern to other doctors about the disciplinary action at the facility and complained that the center was trying to “crucify” him. A nurse working on one of Ortiz’s surgeries is said to have told police that Ortiz refused to use an IV bag she had removed from the warmer and physically waved the bag away.
Surveillance videos from the corridor of the center’s operating room reportedly showed Ortiz placing IV bags in the stainless steel bag warmer shortly before other doctors’ patients developed heart problems.
The complaint alleges that in one case, captured in the surveillance video, officers watched Ortiz walk quickly from an operating room to the pocket warmer, insert a single IV bag, visually scan the empty hallway, and quickly walk away. Just over an hour later, according to the complaint, a 56-year-old woman suffered a heart failure during a scheduled cosmetic surgery after a bag from the warmer was used during her procedure.
The complaint alleges that in another case, officers saw Ortiz leave his operating room with an IV bag hidden in what appeared to be a paper folder, swapped the bag with another bag from the heater, and walked away. About half an hour later, a 54-year-old woman suffered a heart failure during a scheduled cosmetic surgery after a bag from the warmer was used during her procedure.
“Patients expect their doctors to use only safe and effective medical products during their surgeries. Unauthorized tampering can cause serious damage and even death,” said Special Officer Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations . “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to monitor, investigate and bring to justice those who would endanger the health and safety of patients.”
If convicted, Ortiz faces a maximum life sentence. A federal district court judge will determine an eventual penalty after considering U.S. sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.