Federal agents arrested a Texas anesthesiologist accused of tampering with IV bags that led to a colleague’s death and sparked a series of terrifying operating room emergencies, officials said Thursday.
Dr. Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr. was arrested Wednesday in Plano and charged with tampering with a consumer product and intentionally adulterating drugs, offenses that could lead to life behind bars, federal prosecutors said.
Ortiz had been suspended in the wake of a criminal investigation related to the June 21 death of Dr. Melanie Kasper, 55, according to the order of temporary suspension the Texas Medical Board issued Friday.
She died after she used an IV bag she had from the clinic where she and Ortiz worked. Kasper took the bag “home with her when she was ill, to rehydrate,” the suspension order said.
An autopsy revealed she was the victim of "a lethal dose of bupivacaine," federal authorities said.
On or about Aug. 24, an 18-year-old male patient "experienced a cardiac emergency during a scheduled surgery" as he had to be "intubated and transferred to a local ICU," federal authorities said in a statement.
A saline IV bag used in the teen patient's procedure showed the presence of the stimulant epinephrine, bupivacaine and lidocaine.
There were 10 other "additional unexpected cardiac emergencies" at the center from May to August, and none of the incidents happened during any of Ortiz's surgeries, officials said.
In one of the complications, authorities said surveillance video showed Ortiz "walking quickly from an operating room to the bag warmer, placing a single IV bag inside, visually scanning the empty hallway, and quickly walking away."
Then, an hour later, a "56-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency during a scheduled cosmetic surgery after a bag from the warmer was used during her procedure," federal officials said.
While authorities didn't explicitly list a motive for the alleged crimes, a complain said "Dr. Ortiz had a history of disciplinary actions against him, expressed concern to other physicians over disciplinary action at the facility, and complained the center was trying to 'crucify' him," the Justice Department said in a statement.
It wasn't immediately clear Thursday afternoon whether Ortiz had hired a defense lawyer or been assigned counsel to speak on his behalf.