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Testimony Begins in Dallas Doctor’s IV Bag Tampering Trial

IV bags for individual having surgery
IV bags for individual having surgery | Image by Owen Franken/Getty Images

Testimony has begun in the trial of a Dallas doctor accused of tampering with IV bags, hearing compelling remarks from one of his alleged victims.

On Tuesday, the second day of Dr. Raynaldo Ortiz Jr.’s trial, saw the first witnesses called to the stand to provide testimony in a case where jurors will decide whether the 61-year-old is guilty of causing several severe medical complications and one death in 2022. The trial will run for two to three weeks, and the defendant will remain in custody.

As previously covered by The Dallas Express, Ortiz, a former anesthesiologist at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare in North Dallas, was indicted on five counts of tampering with consumer products causing death and/or serious bodily injury and five counts of adulteration of a drug.

A federal investigation was prompted in late 2022 after the discovery of contaminated IV bags that caused “unexpected cardiovascular complications during otherwise unremarkable surgeries” at Baylor Scott & White Surgicare in North Dallas and the death of a colleague — Dr. Melanie Kaspar — in her home.

The connection between the surgical center and Ortiz was first reported by DX, as well as the existence of surveillance footage allegedly showing Ortiz “depositing single IV bags into the warmer in the hall outside the operating rooms” shortly before “a patient would suffer a serious complication,” per the Texas Medical Board (TMB).

On April 2, prosecutors walked through the videos at length while Ashley Burks, a nurse and former administrator at the surgical facility, was on the stand.

Despite Burks telling the court that “[Ortiz’s] job was to take care of patients, not stock the warmer,” video footage from August 9, 2022, appears to show him pulling three IV bags out of the warmer at 8 a.m. and then putting one bag back at 10:19 a.m., per CBS News Texas. Just 35 minutes later, another medical staffer can be seen going to the warmer and pulling out a bag to take into surgery. The patient from that surgery had an unexplained medical emergency shortly thereafter and had to be revived with the crash cart.

“It’s happening again,” Burks recalled thinking when an 18-year-old undergoing a rhinoplasty saw his blood pressure unexpectedly spike on August 24, 2022, per CBS News Texas. She testified that the medical team noticed a small hole in the IV bag given to the patient, and Dr. Chad Marsden ordered it to be swapped out and to hold onto it. The IV bag was shown to jurors.

An alleged victim of Ortiz — a 57-year-old woman from Plano and mother to three children — took the stand to describe the impact of the unexpected medical emergency that occurred while she was undergoing a facelift and liposuction at the facility on August 4, 2022, per WFAA.

“I knew something was really wrong,” she recalled thinking upon waking up in extreme pain at a different hospital, per CBS News Texas.

Her procedure had been cut short due to her spike in blood pressure, leaving her with what looked like a “third ear” for two years, per WFAA. She has also suffered from heart problems since the procedure and now must take beta blockers for the rest of her life.

Prosecutors showed surveillance footage of Ortiz on the same day as this woman’s surgery, not only taking IV bags in and out of the warmer but also removing drugs from the medicine cabinet at the facility. His defense attorneys also showed footage from that day, pointing out how nurses and other doctors were taking bags out of the IV bag warmer and stressing how IV bags were not tracked at the facility, per WFAA.

Another critical testimony heard on April 2 was from Christopher Palazola, executive director of the TMB. Palazola attested that TMB had conducted two disciplinary investigations of Ortiz, one in 2018 and the other in 2022, per WFAA. He stressed how unusual this is, noting that less than 1% of Texas doctors have had two disciplinary orders against them. The presiding judge, David Godbey, had ruled earlier that morning that jurors could not be told the specific details of these investigations.

Prosecutors are presenting Ortiz’s previous disciplinary issues as critical to the motive behind his alleged attacks — retaliation for potentially losing his job and placing him in financial difficulty, reported DX.

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