By Jennifer Kastner, KGTV ABC TV-10 San Diego, CA
July 20, 2022
SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - New criminal charges have been filed against the embattled Bonita plastic surgeon who's already charged in a patient's death and who’s facing multiple lawsuits.
The San Diego County District Attorney's Office confirmed this week that it added three new counts of "Treating the sick/afflicted without a certificate- conspiring" for three new Jane Does who had cosmetic surgery last year.
The counts are in addition to the three other counts that Divino Plastic Surgery Center's Dr. Carlos Chacon was already facing over the death of a patient. Both he and his nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Despite the charges, both of them are allowed to practice medicine until at least September. That's about nine months after the first charges were filed.
Due to California law, they are still not required to tell any patients about the criminal charges.
“It’s truly horrifying,” said patient safety advocate Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog. “It’s simply unacceptable for another patient to be walking through the door of this doctor's office without being informed of the criminal charges against him,” she added.
Aside from the criminal case, there are mounting civil lawsuits. The latest lawsuit was filed by a patient against Dr. Chacon who claims that she suffered "permanent and disfiguring injuries, including extensive scarring".
It comes after another suit was filed by former patient Natassia Louis who said that Dr. Chacon botched her surgery. “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 previously told ABC 10News.
Additionally, there is a third lawsuit that was brought by the family of patient Megan Espinoza, who died.
Court records show that Dr. Chacon denies any wrongdoing in the lawsuits.
However, he and his nurse, Heather Lang, were criminally charged with involuntary manslaughter last December, three years after Espinoza's death.
The Medical Board of California (MBC) released a jarring report detailing what allegedly happened during her surgery in 2018.
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.
Both the doctor and nurse have pleaded not guilty.
The MBC requested a court order for Dr. Chacon to cease practice pending the outcome of the criminal charges. The court hearing was supposed to happen in March. Then, it was pushed to July. Then, it was pushed to September.
Until then, he and the nurse can continue to practice with only some limitations, like only performing surgery if anesthesia is administered by a licensed Anesthesiologist, or a licensed CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist).
ABC 10News asked the District Attorney’s Office for an interview about why the court hearings keep getting pushed back. The request was declined, citing that the case is pending. For the same reason, the MBC also declined a request for an interview.
Central Valley State Senator Melissa Hurtado previously told ABC 10News that there needs to be more urgency and transparency. “I think that things need to change, drastically," she added.
“This entire situation is incredibly troubling and a failure on the part of the criminal system and the administrative system that's charged with protecting patients from harm,” added Balber.
Both the doctor and the nurse's attorneys would not comment about the criminal case. The defense attorneys for the civil cases declined to comment.
Dr. Chacon and Lang’s preliminary exam readiness hearing is scheduled for September 2nd.