ASC nurse pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter for role in botched procedure

Heather Lang Vass, RN, a nurse involved with a botched breast augmentation procedure at Divino Plastic Surgery Center in Bonita, Calif., has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, NBC San Diego reported May 16. 

Ms. Vass and her employer, surgeon Carlos Chacon, MD, were charged in the death of Megan Espinoza following the botched surgery. Ms. Vass faces up to four years in prison in connection with her pleas.

Ms. Espinoza reportedly went into cardiac arrest during her Dec. 19, 2018, surgery, but Dr. Chacon did not immediately call 911 "even as [she] started to make gurgling noises and exhibit seizure-like activity," the medical board's report stated, according to a 2022 ABC10 News report.

Paramedics were called more than three hours later and rushed Ms. Espinoza to hospital, where she was intubated and placed in an intensive care unit. Ms. Espinoza never woke up or regained the ability to breathe on her own, and she died Jan. 28, 2019, more than six weeks after the operation. 

Dr. Chacon was originally charged with manslaughter, but the charge was upgraded to second-degree murder in April after new information showed that, not only did he refuse to call 911 for three hours, but forbade his employees from doing so. According to the report, Dr. Chacon also lied to Ms. Espinoza’s husband about her condition. 

While the Medical Board of California restricted Dr. Chacon's license last year, he is still practicing plastic surgery and must inform all patients in writing that he’s under investigation, according to the NBC report. His administrative hearing has not been scheduled, and he has pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

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