The trial for the anesthesiologist accused of tampering with IV bags will begin on February 5, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz Jr. was arrested last year for allegedly poisoning IV bags with nerve blockers, which resulted in a colleague’s death and cardiac emergencies in 11 other patients at the surgery center where he worked.
After several motions for continuance from Ortiz’s legal counsel over the past several months, Judge David Godbey set the trial for the first week of February, ruling that the continuance better served the ends of justice than a speedy trial for the defendant.
Ortiz’s legal team requested bail earlier this year, AS he had been in jail since his arrest in September without bond. Part of the judge’s reasoning for keeping Ortiz in jail was because of the incident when Ortiz shot his neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun.
Ortiz’s legal team argued that he shot the dog because of its incessant barking, though it was reported earlier that he shot the animal when his neighbor helped Ortiz’s partner obtain a restraining order against him after a domestic violence incident. A witness in a 2015 animal cruelty hearing testified that Ortiz had threatened to shoot the dog thousands of times. Ortiz was sentenced to 29 days in jail for shooting the dog in 2016 but was still allowed to practice medicine afterward.
Godbey denied the bail and set a trial date for September, which has now been pushed back to February.
Ortiz is accused of poisoning several IV bags at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare North Dallas, a joint venture between the nonprofit health system and physicians. He allegedly injected nerve-blocking agents and other drugs into the outpatient surgery center’s IV bags. In the summer of 2022, several Surgicare patients had adverse cardiac events after routine surgeries required patients to be transferred to full-service hospitals. Some of those patients required time in the intensive care unit. Ortiz appears on surveillance footage placing IV bags in warmers outside their operating rooms before several patients had cardiac events.
When Ortiz’s colleague, 55-year-old anesthesiologist Dr. Melanie Kaspar, took home one of the allegedly tainted IV bags to give to herself at home one weekend, she died of a heart attack after administering it. The Dallas County Medical Examiner found that she died from the toxic effects of bupivacaine, a local anesthetic used to numb parts of the body during surgery. Other victims also tested positive for the drug, and punctured IV bags were found at the facility containing nerve blockers as well.
The cardiac incidents occurred while Ortiz was working but never happened to one of his patients. His coworkers told authorities they were terrified of him and what he might do. A nurse who worked with Ortiz told authorities that Ortiz allegedly refused to use an IV bag she had retrieved from the warmer during one of his surgeries.
The U.S.A.O. released security footage of Ortiz replacing single IV bags throughout the surgery center. In the videos, he appears to conceal that he is holding IV bags as he walks through the hallways. Surveillance video allegedly shows Ortiz go from an operating room to place a bag in a warmer, visually scan the hallway, and quickly walk away from the warmer. An hour later, the complaint says a 56-year-old woman suffered a cardiac emergency during a routine cosmetic surgery that involved using a bag from the warmer.
Ortiz has a lengthy disciplinary record that includes domestic violence arrests and other adverse patient outcomes. The Texas Medical Board disciplined and fined him, and at least one other facility had denied him privileges for not disclosing his criminal activity before Surgicare hired him. He allegedly poisoned the IV bags in retaliation for a previous Texas Medical Board disciplinary measure.
The trial is set to begin on February 5 in federal court.