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South Bay plastic surgeon, nurse charged in patient's surgery death

Posted at 6:50 PM, Dec 20, 2021

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (CNS) — A South Bay plastic surgeon and a nurse pleaded not guilty Monday to involuntary manslaughter charges stemming from the death of a patient following a botched breast augmentation surgery.

Dr. Carlos Chacon, 47, and nurse Heather Lang Vass, 42, are charged in the death of Megan Espinoza, a 36-year-old mother of two who died more than a month after undergoing an operation on Dec. 19, 2018.

Prosecutors said Espinoza went into cardiac arrest during the operation at Divino Plastic Surgery in Bonita, but the defendants delayed contacting emergency services for about three hours.

After Espinoza's condition worsened, Chacon allegedly phoned other doctors for advice, one of whom told him he needed to call paramedics, according to Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas, who also alleged an unlicensed medical assistant was instructed to inject Espinoza with local anesthesia during the operation.

The case was referred to the District Attorney's Office by the California Medical Board following a complaint from paramedics who responded to the scene and were "shocked" by Espinoza's condition, according to the prosecutor.

Both defendants remain out of custody on numerous bail conditions, including that Chacon may only perform surgery if a licensed anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist is administering anesthesia during surgery. A two-day preliminary hearing was tentatively set for March.

In 2019, Espinoza's husband filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against Chacon, Vass and Divino Plastic Surgery. That case remains pending, with its next hearing set for May.