TX doctor found guilty of injecting drugs into IV bags, causing death, cardiac emergencies

A North Texas anesthesiologist has been found guilty of injecting heart-stopping drugs into IV bags, causing a doctor’s death and several medical emergencies in 2022, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton said Friday.

Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz, of Plano, was indicted in October 2022 by a grand jury on five federal charges of tampering with consumer products and five counts of adulteration of drugs.

He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison at sentencing after the jury’s verdict in the trial Friday in a Dallas federal courtroom.

The former anesthesiologist injected nerve-blocking agents, such as bupivacaine, and other drugs, into IV bags of saline at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas, according to a federal criminal complaint. He then put the bags in a communal warmer and waited for them to be used in other doctors’ surgeries, Simonton said in a video posted to X after Friday’s verdict.

“Eleven patients all expecting routine, quick-recovery procedures suffered unexpected and unimaginable horror. Worst yet, a fellow anesthesiologist who treated herself for dehydration with a tainted bag writhed in pain and died as her husband watched,” Simonton said. “Dr. Ortiz cloaked himself in the white coat of a healer, but instead of curing pain, he inflicted it.”

In June 2022, anesthesiologist Melanie Kaspar wasn’t feeling well one day and used an IV bag she got from a hospital at home in an attempt to feel better, according to the complaint. She later died and authorities confirmed the bag was compromised.

An autopsy report concluded that Kaspar died of an accident involving bupivacaine toxicity and the nerve-blocking agent was found in her bloodstream.

Two months after Kaspar’s death, an 18-year-old male patient, identified as J.A. in court documents, experienced a cardiac emergency in a scheduled 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 epinephrine (a stimulant that could have caused the patient’s symptoms), bupicavaine, and lidocaine, according to court documents.

Surgical center personnel concluded that the incidents involving Kaspar and the teen suggested a pattern of intentional adulteration of IV bags used at the center, according to the complaint.

The center’s personnel identified about 10 other unexpected cardiac emergencies that occurred during otherwise unremarkable surgeries between May and August 2022, which the complaint alleged to be an exceptionally high rate of complications over such a short period of time.

Most of the incidents occurred during longer surgeries that used more than one IV bag, including one or more bags retrieved mid-surgery from a stainless steel bag warmer. None of the incidents happened during Ortiz’s surgeries, but they began just days after Ortiz was notified he was facing disciplinary actions due to mistakes he made in his own surgeries, according to the complaint. This led him to sabotage his colleagues’ surgeries, Simonton said in her post Friday.

“In attempt to taint his colleagues’ reputations, he [Ortiz] destroyed his own life and horribly impacted many innocent lives around him,” Simonton said.

Surveillance video from the center’s operating room hallway showed Ortiz placing IV bags into a stainless-steel bag warmer shortly before other doctors’ patients experienced cardiac emergencies, the complaint alleged.