NewsTeam 10 Investigates


South Bay nurse charged in patient's death changes plea, placed on administrative leave

Posted at 2:01 PM, May 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 17:14:57-04

CHULA VISTA (CNS) - A nurse pleaded guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge Tuesday in a patient's death at a South Bay plastic surgery clinic.

Heather Lang Vass, 43, faces up to four years in state prison for the death of Megan Espinoza, a 36-year-old mother of two who died more than a month after undergoing a breast augmentation operation on Dec. 19, 2018.

Dr. Carlos Chacon, 48, remains charged with murder in the case.

Espinoza went into cardiac arrest during the operation at Divino Plastic Surgery in Bonita.

Prosecutors say Chacon and Vass allegedly delayed contacting emergency services for about three hours. Chacon is also accused of ordering his staff not to call 911 when Espinoza's condition declined, instructing staff to lie to Espinoza's husband regarding her condition, and seeing four other patients after Espinoza went into cardiac arrest.

Earlier this week, ABC 10News started receiving anonymous emails that despite Vass being charged and entered a guilty plea, she was still acting as a nurse at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista.

Team 10 investigators discovered those emails were true. The hospital confirmed to ABC 10News that she was employed and acting as a nurse. However, with the change of plea she was placed on administrative leave.

“At Scripps, patient safety is a top priority. It’s important to note the incident in question did not occur at one of our facilities. Ms. Voss was employed by Scripps for several years prior to charges being filed.  Her work since that time was in compliance with the provisions placed on her license by the California Board of Registered Nursing. While her license remains active, given the change in her plea, we have placed her on administrative leave.”

Chacon remains out of custody on $500,000 bail. Earlier this year, a judge ruled that he can remain out of custody provided he only perform surgery if a licensed anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist is administering anesthesia during surgery and he may only perform surgery at accredited surgery centers.

He also must inform surgical patients of the pending charges he is facing and must provide proof of that notification to the court.