A Texas doctor allegedly injected poison into IV bags, causing the death of a fellow physician and cardiac emergencies in 11 other patients, at a Dallas facility in retaliation for a medical misconduct probe, federal court papers allege.
Anesthesiologist Raynaldo Rivera Ortiz Jr., 59, was arrested Sept. 15 — one week after the Texas Medical Board yanked his license after a string of healthy patients suffered mysterious and life-threatening complications during routine surgeries from May to August. None of the patients were under his care.
"Respondent’s continued practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare," the board wrote in its suspension order.
Disturbing surveillance footage
Alarming footage from Aug. 4 shows Ortiz emerging from a room at 12:35 p.m. at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare in North Dallas holding an IV bag as he walks down an empty hall toward a fridge used for warming saline solution.
He passes the fridge, makes a U-turn then deposits an IV bag inside. After closing the door, he furtively scans the hall before exiting the frame.
A nurse retrieved the poisoned bag at 12:11 p.m., which was administered to a 56-year-old woman undergoing cosmetic surgery, according to a federal criminal complaint out of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas.
She suffered serious cardiac complications and was rushed to a nearby hospital.
Another clip from Aug. 19 appears to show Ortiz at about 10:24 a.m. with a saline pouch hidden under a paper folder. He swaps the IV bag with one in the warming fridge.
The contaminated solution was given to a 54-year-old woman undergoing abdominal surgery who also suffered a cardiac emergency, the criminal complaint says.
Prosecutors call Ortiz a ‘medical terrorist’
The video clips were played at a court hearing last week, where federal prosecutors described Ortiz as a "medical terrorist" who used heart-stopping drugs to turn IV bags into "poison bombs that exploded on unsuspecting patients," FOX4 Dallas-Forth Worth reported.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Horan wrote in an order holding Ortiz without bond that if the doctor were released, he could engage in "violent retaliatory behavior against those who are involved in this investigation."
Although Ortiz owns a pair of Corvettes, three Mercedes and a home worth $1.3 million, he was appointed a free lawyer. Prosecutors said that he owes the IRS millions of dollars in taxes.
Hospital personnel told investigators it was highly unusual for a doctor to ever put an IV bag in the warmer or retrieve his own for surgery, court papers say.
Death of beloved physician Melanie Kaspar
Trouble at the Dallas facility began when administrators launched an investigation into Ortiz after an anesthesia patient of his stopped breathing during a routine procedure on May 19, 2022.
A review of the incident determined that Ortiz had "deviated from the standard of care by failing to maintain the patient’s airway" and did not properly document the emergency.
Ortiz was allegedly distraught over the probe and confided in a colleague that the hospital’s administrators were trying to "crucify" him, according to the federal complaint.
Two days after he was informed of the investigation, patients began suffering unexplained heart anomalies during surgery.
The most serious outcome occurred after anesthesiologist Melanie Kasper, 55, took a contaminated IV bag home on June 21 to rehydrate due to an illness — and suffered a fatal heart attack.
An autopsy later determined that she was poisoned by bupivacaine — a nerve-blocking numbing agent that is used for surgery and not administered intravenously.
"It’s terrible," Melanie Kaspar’s widower, John Kaspar, told Fox News Digital. "My wife was a great person and a great doctor. I could say a million things about how wonderful she was."
Routine surgeries turn life-threatening
On Aug. 24, an 18-year-old man was given saline for a low-risk ENT (ear, nose, throat) surgery when his "heart started beating out of control and his blood pressure spiked," according to the complaint.
He was transferred to an emergency medical facility where he was intubated and hospitalized for four days.
The unexplained incidents led hospital personnel to identify 10 additional medical anomalies that they believed were "part of a pattern of intentional adulteration" where "patients experienced unexpected cardiovascular complications during otherwise unremarkable surgeries," court papers allege. The facility contacted local and federal authorities.
Federal agents obtained four IV bags — two used in the 18-year-old’s Aug. 24 surgery and two retrieved from the warmer, which had "small puncture holes."
The pair of used saline bags tested positive for bupivacaine, epinephrine (a stimulant) and lidocaine.
The two unused pouches from the warmer were contaminated with bupivacaine and lidocaine, court papers allege. The facility paused all surgeries Aug. 24, but regular operations are resuming this week, according to a spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White.
Red flags: Ortiz shot a neighbor's dog
Ortiz had already lost privileges at North Garland Surgery Center after a patient in November 2020 suffered a medical emergency from "inadequate oxygenation and ventilation."
As part of the disciplinary action stemming from the incident, Ortiz entered into an agreement on Aug. 19 with the Texas Medical Board to pay another physician to monitor him, complete continuing education courses and pay a $3,000 fine.
In an earlier disciplinary case, he was punished for failing to notify the board that he had acquired a criminal conviction.
He was found guilty of cruelty to animals and sentenced to 29 days in jail in 2016 for shooting his neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun after she helped his then-girlfriend obtain a protective order against him stemming from a domestic violence incident.
A medical board record noted that Ortiz has a "history of violence toward women" — including a 1999 arrest for allegedly assaulting a spouse. In 2005, a different girlfriend obtained a protective order against him.
Ortiz is charged with tampering with a consumer product causing death or serious injury, intentionally adulterating a drug knowing it would likely cause an adverse health reaction, and other charges.
If convicted, he faces up to life in prison or even the death penalty.
A spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White said the facility was cooperating with law enforcement.
"We have actively assisted authorities and will continue to do so; as such, we will also continue to limit our comments," according to a statement.
The spokesperson declined to comment on why the facility had allowed Ortiz to continue practicing after racking up a disciplinary and criminal record, citing the pending federal investigation.
Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.