A South Bay plastic surgeon already facing criminal charges stemming from the death of a patient pleaded not guilty Monday to a newly filed murder charge.
Dr. Carlos Chacón, 48, was charged along with one of his nurses in late 2021 with manslaughter and other charges for the death ofa 36-year-old mother of two who died over a month after undergoing breast augmentation surgery on December 19, 2018.
Prosecutors said Espinoza received anesthesia from a nurse who was not trained to do so. The patient suffered a cardiac arrest during the operation inin Bonita and Chacón it allegedly delayed contact with the emergency services for about three hours.
Chacón was previously released on his own recognizance under a series of conditions, but was arrested and jailed last week.
Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas said Monday that further investigation of the case yielded additional information that led to the filing of the murder charge, including allegations that Chacón directed his staff not to call 911 when Espinoza’s condition worsened and that he ordered the staff to lie to Espinoza’s husband. regarding her condition.
The prosecutor said that Chacón also lied to several anesthesiologists whom he called on the phone on December 19, 2018, when he told them that Espinoza never lost his pulse or blood pressure.
Darvas said one of those anesthesiologists later told investigators that if he had known the truth about Espinoza’s condition, he himself would have called 911. The prosecutor said the anesthesiologist also volunteered to go to the clinic to help, but Chacón refused. Another doctor told Chacón to immediately call 911, but he did not, the prosecutor alleged.
“We believe this evidence shows that the defendant’s calls to these doctors were not for help in handling the medical emergency that was occurring with Megan Espinoza’s life, but rather to create plausible deniability and spread blame for how he mishandled the medical emergency. emergency,” Darvas said. a judge.
The prosecutor said that Chacón saw four other patients “while Mrs. Espinoza lay suffocated on that table.”
She said investigators also discovered other evidence that Chacón “was engaging in dangerous practices with other patients, including cutting corners, using unqualified and unlicensed employees, and putting the safety of his patients at risk to earn more money.”
One of Chacón’s defense attorneys, Marc Carlos, said prosecutors “upgraded this to a murder charge” despite the fact that there were no changes to the case since it was originally filed, no violations of his bail conditions and there were no new complaints regarding other patients.
“I’ve never seen anything like this and I really think doctors should be concerned because if something bad happens to them, this is what’s going to happen to them next,” Carlos said.
Another Chacón defense attorney, David Rosenberg, said his client “took various steps” to try to help Espinoza when things got worse. He also said Chacón did not believe it was necessary to call 911 immediately because Espinoza’s oxygen levels and pulse rate were within normal limits.
“To say that you ignored this patient and didn’t care about her defies the medical records,” he said.
Rosenberg alleged that, other than this, Chacón’s record of performing surgeries has been without a stain and that he had never faced a lawsuit regarding any of his patients until Espinoza’s husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit and medical malpractice in 2019. That case was settled out of court last year.
Prosecutors asked for $5 million bail, but Superior Court Judge Maryann D’Addezio set bail at $500,000, which her defense attorneys said she will post soon.
The judge set a number of conditions for his release, including that he can only perform surgery if a licensed anesthesiologist or registered nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia during surgery and he can only perform surgery at accredited surgical centers.
You must also inform surgical patients of the pending charges you are facing and must provide proof of that notification to the court.
While Chacon is still licensed to practice medicine, the prosecutor said the California Medical Board filed a motion to suspend his license.
The City News Service contributed to this article.