Texas doctor who tampered with patients IV bags faces 190 years after guilty verdict

A Dallas anesthesiologist could spend nearly two centuries in prison after being convicted in federal court Friday for "injecting dangerous drugs into patient IV bags, leading to one death and numerous cardiac emergencies," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Raynaldo Riviera Ortiz Jr., 60, was charged in the Northern District of Texas in September 2022 for tampering with IV bags used at a local surgical center, a Justice Department news release said. The anesthesiologist was found guilty by a jury after eight days of trial and seven hours of deliberation, according to the release.

Ortiz was found guilty on four counts of tampering with consumer products resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of tampering with a consumer product and five counts of intentional adulteration of a drug, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Ortiz's crimes even led to the death of a fellow anesthesiologist who was using an IV bag to treat herself for dehydration, according to federal authorities.

A federal public defender assigned to Ortiz's case told USA TODAY on Wednesday he did not "have any comments."

What drugs did Raynaldo Ortiz inject into IV bags?

While employed at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare's North Dallas facility from May to August 2022, Ortiz "surreptitiously injected IV bags of saline" with a nerve-blocking agent called bupivacaine, a stimulant called epinephrine and an anesthetic called lidocaine, the Justice Department said.

The drug cocktail injected in IV bags by Ortiz contributed to numerous patients at the surgical center suffering from cardiac emergencies during routine medical procedures performed by doctors, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Doctors at the surgical center became wary of the tainted IV bags in August 2022 after an 18-year-old patient had to be rushed to the intensive care unit during a routine sinus surgery, the Justice Department said.

A lab at the University of Texas in Denton analyzed fluid from the IV bag used during the teen's surgery and found the drug cocktail inside, according to a criminal complaint. The effects of the medley of drugs include "very high blood pressure, cardiac dysfunction and pulmonary edema," federal authorities said. A puncture in the bag was also found.

'I wasn't able to talk, breathe,' one of Raynaldo Ortiz's victims says

Jack Adlerstein, now 19 years old, spoke with KDFW in Dallas about the horrifying experience.

"The next 24 hours were really, really hard for me," Adlerstein told the TV station about how he felt after the incident. "I wasn't able to talk, breathe. They had to put me on a breathing mask."

Adlerstein's father said he was told "there was a real fear that there might be lasting neurological damage," KDFW reported. Jack has since fully recovered, the TV station said.

How did Raynaldo Ortiz get caught?

Ortiz's plan included injecting the IV bags with the drug cocktail, placing the bags into a warming bin at the facility and then waiting for his colleagues to use them during surgeries, the Justice Department said. Surveillance video introduced during the trial showed Ortiz repeatedly grabbing the IV bags from the warming bin and replacing them not long before they were carried into operating rooms, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors also showed surveillance video of Ortiz mixing vials of medication and watching emergency responders wheel out victims, federal authorities said.

Ortiz was facing disciplinary action during the time of his crimes due to an "alleged medical mistake" he made during one of his surgeries that resulted in his patient not breathing during a routine procedure, the criminal complaint shows. Ortiz was at risk of losing his medical license due to the mistake, according to prosecutors.

Ortiz believed the surgical center was trying to "crucify" him for the mistake, particularly when he would be financially devastated if he lost his job, the criminal complaint said.

'He assembled ticking time bombs,' U.S. Attorney says about Raynaldo Ortiz's crimes

Doctors testified during the trial about how confused they felt when their patients' blood pressure "suddenly skyrocketed," the U.S. Attorney's Office said. After reviewing medical records, the doctors noticed that all the emergencies happened right after new IV bags had been hung, according to the Justice Department.

"Patients recalled waking up unexpectedly intubated in intensive care units they had been transported to via emergency medical transportation services, in pain and in fear for their lives," the doctors said during their testimonies, according to prosecutors.

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The surgical center told authorities it had five transfers for emergency treatment during August 2022, which matched the facility's 2021 total, the criminal complaint said.

Ortiz is scheduled to be sentenced on July 22, 2024, court records show. He is facing a maximum penalty of 190 years in prison.

“Dr. Ortiz cloaked himself in the white coat of a healer, but instead of curing pain, he inflicted it,” U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton for the Northern District of Texas said in the release. “He assembled ticking time bombs, then sat in wait as those medical time bombs went off one by one, toxic cocktails flowing into the veins of patients who were often at their most vulnerable, lying unconscious on the operating table."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas doctor who poisoned patient IV bags faces 190 years in prison