San Diego, CA — Patients in California are exposed to harm by dangerous doctors because California law does not quickly discipline or require them to disclose criminal or regulatory charges against them, Consumer Watchdog said today after a San Diego doctor was arraigned on murder charges.
Dr. Carlos Chacon was arraigned for murder on Monday for actions in December of 2018 that led to the death of patient Megan Espinoza. At least 6 other women were harmed by the doctor, several in the four years following Mrs. Espinoza’s death according to additional criminal charges, civil lawsuits and complaints shared with Consumer Watchdog.
Those patients were not warned about Chacon’s history, even after he was first charged with manslaughter in December 2021. The court placed restrictions on his license Monday, but Chacon will still be allowed to practice if he is released on bail.
Read the arrest warrant: https://interactive.cbs8.com/chacon_warrant.pdf
Consumer Watchdog called on lawmakers to require the Medical Board of California to suspend the license of doctors charged with murder and mandate disclosure to patients of charges against doctors.
Megan Espinoza sought cosmetic surgery from Dr. Carlos Chacon in December 2018. Chacon allowed a nurse not licensed to provide anesthesia to sedate her and she suffered a cardiac arrest during surgery. Chacon did not call paramedics for three hours, “made the conscious decision to stop others from providing lifesaving efforts on at least 7 occasions,” and “engaged in an effort to conceal his conscious disregard for Megan Espinoza’s life” according to the arrest warrant.
California law does not require doctors to inform patients about criminal or state regulatory charges for causing the injury or death of a patient, and online physician profiles also exclude criminal charges. Doctors in California are allowed to continue seeing patients during investigations into serious injury and death, investigations that take years to conclude. The Medical Board of California does not disclose these investigations, even in the most egregious cases.
“This doctor took our joy from our life, but he still has his license. I am speaking out so no one else has to suffer the same loss. Patients should not be left in the dark about their doctor’s record of such grievous harm,” said Judith Gorcey of Oxnard, mother of Megan Espinoza.
“The tragedy of Megan Espinoza’s loss is compounded by the fact that her doctor was allowed to continue to harm patients for years, with no warnings and no protections. Even when a doctor is criminally charged, California law does not require patients be informed. The secrecy in the current system and glacial pace of investigations puts patients at risk. Lawmakers in Sacramento have debated how to address enforcement failures at the Medical Board for too long. Now is the time to act before more patients are harmed,” said Carmen Balber executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
The Medical Board of California faces “sunset review” oversight hearings in the Legislature this year, and lawmakers held a hearing last month where members of the public, including Megan Espinoza’s family, testified.
Patient advocates are calling for reforms to improve transparency, accountability and patient participation in the Medical Board enforcement process as part of legislation that must be passed in Sacramento this year.
Among the other patients who have come forward is young mother Natassia Louis, who was left with a gaping hole in her stomach after surgery with Chacon just months before initial manslaughter charges were filed against him. Chacon did not disclose the investigation to Ms. Louis, or disclose when the criminal charges were filed. She did not learn of the charges until she was tipped off just before she was about to return to the doctor for a third procedure to fix the damage. View her story.
Patricia Plascencia, of San Diego, was also left maimed and in serious pain when her surgery with Chacon failed. She saw him five months after he was charged with manslaughter and was also never informed of the charges, or the restrictions placed on his practice.
Read Consumer Watchdog’s Patient Bill of Rights detailing overdue Medical Board reforms.