DALLAS (TCD) -- An anesthesiologist was arrested and charged after allegedly tampering with IV bags at a surgical center, resulting in one death and multiple heart emergencies.
According to a news release from the Department of Justice, in late June, one of Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr.’s co-workers treated herself for dehydration with an IV bag of saline, and she experienced a medical emergency and died. Her cause of death was reportedly due to a lethal dose of bupivacaine, which blocks the nerves and is often used during anesthesia administration.
Approximately two months later, in late August, the Department of Justice says an 18-year-old male patient endured a cardiac emergency during surgery, and he had to be intubated and transported to a local ICU. He reportedly had epinephrine, bupicavaine, and lidocaine in his system. Epinephrine reportedly could have caused the cardiac emergency.
Upon further investigation, surgical center staff determined that the IV bags used on the male and female victims were intentionally altered, according to the Department of Justice. Ten other cardiac emergencies reportedly occurred between May and August 2022, and most of the cases happened when patients required more than one IV bag, and IV bags were retrieved mid-surgery from a "stainless steel bag warmer," the Department of Justice says.
The IV bag reactions allegedly began two days after Ortiz was informed of potential discipline after he allegedly "deviated from the standard of care" during a procedure in which a patient required CPR. While Ortiz was on vacation, the Department of Justice says the IV reactions did not occur.
Ortiz had allegedly complained in the past about the surgical center trying to "crucify" him, and he had told other co-workers about his concerns of disciplinary action taken at the facility.
Upon further investigation, surveillance video reportedly captured Ortiz putting IV bags "into the stainless steel bag warmer shortly before other doctors’ patients experienced cardiac emergencies."
Surveillance video also reportedly showed Ortiz placing an IV bag inside the bag warmer and quickly walking away. A 56-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency an hour later during a cosmetic procedure after a bag from the warmer was administered during the surgery.
Ortiz allegedly left a hospital room carrying an IV bag in a paper folder, and he switched out the bag with another from the warmer, and then walked away. Approximately 30 minutes later, the Department of Justice says a 54-year-old female patient endured a heart emergency.
According to the Department of Justice, Ortiz was charged with tampering with a consumer product and with intentionally adulterating drugs. He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 16, and could reportedly face up to life in prison if convicted.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Chad E. Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said Ortiz "surreptitiously injected heart-stopping drugs into patient IV bags, decimating the Hippocratic oath."
Meacham continued, "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. We will work tirelessly to hold him accountable. In the meantime, it is safe to undergo anesthesia in Dallas."