By Jennifer Kastner, KGTV ABC TV-10 San Diego, CA
April 7, 2022
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A Bonita plastic surgeon who’s charged with involuntary manslaughter in a patient’s death is coming under fire again. This time it’s over a different patient. He’s still allowed to practice without notifying patients.
It was early last year when young mother Natassia Louis decided to get a tummy tuck and a breast lift. That’s how she ended up at Bonita’s Divino Plastic Surgery Center with Dr. Carlos Chacon. He’s now the target of a new lawsuit that Louis is bringing against him for medical negligence.
“He spent a good two hours telling me how he was number one in the nation,” said Louis who also works as an ICU nurse. She said that she researched him and other surgeons but chose Dr. Chacon despite the dollar amount for the procedure. “[It was] $25,000,” she told ABC 10News.
A couple of weeks after going under the knife, she said that an incision in her stomach wouldn’t close. “I was going in three times a week and every time I would go in, he would cut more and cut more and cut more,” she added.
During an office-visit this January for a revision surgery, she said that someone in the office whispered a message to her. “[She] said, ‘I need you to not come back,'” Louis told ABC 10News.
“I [got] in the car and I’m like, ‘What was she talking about?’ So, I ‘Google’ him and the case finally pops up,” she stated. She’s referring to the involuntary manslaughter case. Dr. Chacon and nurse Heather Lang were criminally charged in December with involuntary manslaughter for their alleged role in 36 year-old San Diego mother Megan Espinoza’s 2018 botched surgery and death.
Even though Espinoza died more than three years ago, nothing about it was available for the public to view on the Medical Board of California’s website until the charges were filed four months ago. Both the surgeon and nurse are allowed to keep practicing without notifying patients, which is California law.
ABC 10News asked Louis, “At any point, did he say, ‘I’ve been criminally charged with involuntary manslaughter,”? She replied, “No. I would’ve had so much more respect for that.”
A formal accusation by the Medical Board of California was made public in December, three years after the death.
According to the report, Dr. Chacon later admitted that prior to surgery, “…there was no discussion with [the patient] regarding the absence of an anesthesiologist.”
The report alleges that the nurse sedated Espinoza, even though she reportedly didn’t have adequate training to do so. About two hours into the procedure, Espinoza went into “cardiac arrest.”
The report reads that an AED, CPR, and various medications were used.
Instead of calling 911, the report states that the doctor “called two anesthesiologists he worked with for advice,” but he allegedly “concealed” from them how life-threatening her situation was.
One anesthesiologist reportedly offered to come in and help, but Dr. Chacon declined.
The other anesthesiologist spoke to him twice and said to “immediately call 911, and that she needed to be intubated by paramedics,” but according to the report, Dr. Chacon didn’t call 911, “…even as [she] started to make gurgling noises and exhibit seizure-like activity.”
Medics were finally called “more than three hours after CPR” and later indicated they were in “disbelief” that it took that long to make the call.
She was found to be brain-dead at the hospital, where she died five weeks later.
Dr. Chacon and his nurse have pleaded not guilty. Espinoza’s family has filed a lawsuit.
Dr. Chacon’s attorney previously wrote to ABC 10News that he is aggressively defending himself in that case. Lang’s attorney explained that they can’t comment because of the ongoing litigation.
The DA’s Office and the Medical Board of California have not commented on why it took three years to file charges and publish an accusation, citing that this is a pending case.
In December, the Medical Board of California requested a court order for Dr. Chacon to cease practice pending the outcome of the criminal charges. The hearing was scheduled for late March, but was pushed back to July. Until then, he and the nurse can practice with some limitations, like only performing surgeries with a licensed anesthesiologist or a certified registered nurse anesthetist present.
Last month, Central California State Senator Melissa Hurtado watched one of ABC 10News’ stories on the Espinoza case. “I think that things need to change, drastically,” she commented.
Patient safety advocate Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog also weighed in. “It’s time, finally, for the State of California to prioritize protecting patients over protecting the livelihood of doctors,” she stated. Consumer Watchdog is pushing for legislative reforms to increase transparency, like expanding disclosure on the Medical Board of California’s website to include pending investigations if the doctor’s conduct resulted in serious harm or death.
“[Espinoza’s] death happened more than three years ago. You saw him last year,” ABC 10News told Louis. She replied, “Yes and January of this year. In January, I was still completely clueless of [the involuntary manslaughter case].”
Louis is hoping that no other patients will have to go through pain and suffering. “I’ve got a hole in the middle of my stomach. I’ve lost my belly button. This isn’t what I signed up for,” she added.
ABC 10News reached out to the attorneys for Dr. Chacon and Ms. Lang for comment on the new lawsuit but have not heard back.
Right now you can check up on your doctor’s license and check for any disciplinary actions using the states license search site.