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San Diego doctor & nurse not required to tell patients about involuntary manslaughter charges

Megan Espinoza
Posted at 4:14 PM, Dec 24, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A Bonita plastic surgeon and a nurse, who are both charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient, can continue doing surgeries for the time being. ABC 10News has learned that they are not required to tell patients about the charges.

It comes after earlier this week when Dr. Carlos Chacon and nurse Heather Lang were charged in part with involuntary manslaughter and treating the sick without a certificate in the death of 36-year-old Megan Espinoza, following accusations of a botched breast augmentation inside Divino Plastic Surgery in Bonita.

The Medical Board of California has released a jarring report detailing what allegedly happened during the surgery in 2018.

According to the Board’s accusation, the nurse sedated Espinoza even though she reportedly didn't have adequate training to do so. Espinoza reportedly became "pulseless".

Over almost two hours, they reportedly tried using an AED, CPR, various medications and a ventilator.

The doctor reportedly "…called two anesthesiologists he worked with for advice, rather than call 911".

One of them even offered to come in and help but the doctor reportedly declined.

According to the report, Espinoza was "comatose" and suffered "cardiac arrest".

Video of the surgery apparently shows Dr. Chacon using life support "cheat sheets" while trying to rescue her.

Paramedics were finally called "more than three hours after CPR."

She died several days later in the hospital.

Both the doctor and nurse have pleaded not guilty.

The Medical Board of California sent the following statement to ABC 10News.

“The Medical Board of California (Board) filed a public accusation against Dr. Chacon on Tuesday, December 21, and it was posted to his [public profile] yesterday afternoon.

At this time, Dr. Chacon is subject to bail conditions imposing practice restrictions set by the Superior Court.On Monday, December 20, the Board requested a court order that would require Dr. Chacon to cease practice pending the outcome of the criminal charges. The Superior Court judge ordered a hearing to consider evidence for this request to be held on March 23-24, 2022.

The accusation brought against Dr. Chacon by the Board is published on the Board’s website to help notify the public of these charges. The Medical Practice Act does not require Dr. Chacon to notify his patients of his pending criminal charges or this accusation. News stories like this will help to notify the public and to remind individuals to check up on their doctor’s license through the Medical Board of California at [].”

The Board of Registered Nursing sent the following statement to ABC 10News:

“The Board of Registered Nursing (Board) is aware of the criminal complaint, and it is currently under review. The Board cannot comment on ongoing administrative disciplinary cases as the information is confidential unless and until the Board takes formal disciplinary action.

The Board is not able to impose limitations on the licensee’s practice, nor require that she notify patients of the pending criminal charges, until the board takes formal action in accordance with the legally required procedural processes. The Board will expeditiously review this matter and take appropriate action as swiftly as possible.

For any further inquiries, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, which represents the Board in connection with this matter.”

For the next three months, Dr. Chacon and Lang can keep doing surgeries with some limitations set by the court. The DA’s Office sent the following to ABC 10News:

“Chacon’s conditions of release are:

  • He may only perform surgery if anesthesia is administered by a licensed Anesthesiologist, or a licensed CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) who is licensed to administer anesthesia independently without supervision of a physician;
  • He may only perform surgery in a licensed, certified out-patient surgery center, or hospital
  • He may not direct unlicensed personnel to administer anesthesia, IV meds, or service IV bags in any manner
  • He must notify the court if he intends to travel outside of the State of California

Lang/Vass conditions of release are:

  • She may only administer anesthesia under direct supervision of a licensed Anesthesiologist or a licensed CRNA;
  • She may not direct unlicensed personnel to administer anesthesia, IV meds, or service IV bags in any manner”

Dr. Chacon’s attorney sent the following statement to ABC 10News.
“The allegations filed against Dr. Chacon will be vigorously defended. Dr. Chacon has been practicing for over a decade and has served thousands of patients. Dr. Chacon actively contributes to and is a respected member of the South Bay community. There have been no previous accusations of wrongdoing. Dr. Chacon acted pursuant to his duties as a licensed physician. This was a tragic and unfortunate accident, and we believe the facts will bear this out. At present, Dr. Chacon is licensed to practice medicine. In addition, his facility has been fully vetted and maintains certification with all governing bodies. In addition, these allegations of misconduct have been known to the Medical Board for a number of years and, since that time, hundreds of patients have received excellent care with no complaints. Dr. Chacon denies any negligence or wrongdoing on his part.”

Lang’s attorney sent the following statement:

"Mrs. Espinoza's passing is a tragic and unexpected nightmare for all parties involved. The fact that it took three years to file charges demonstrates the complexity involved in bringing allegations against a licensed nurse who was acting at all times under the direction and control of a licensed physician. We welcome our turn at evaluating the evidence and conducting our own investigation."

Espinoza’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.