By: Austin Grabish
BONITA, Calif. (KGTV) — A plastic surgeon was charged with murder after he allegedly left a patient to suffocate in the operating room for hours while he did consultations with other potential clients to make money.
The stunning allegation was made in a Chula Vista courtroom Monday by San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas, as she explained to the court why her office had filed murder charges against Dr. Carlos Chacon. Chacon had previously been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his patient, Megan Espinoza.
Espinoza, a mother of two, died after she underwent a breast augmentation procedure in 2018 at Chacon’s Divino Plastic Surgery clinic in Bonita.
“The defendant essentially doubled down on his practices and prevented other people from calling 911 and allowed Ms. Espinoza to essentially suffocate for a three-hour period before emergency personnel was finally summoned,” Darvas told reporters following Chacon’s arraignment.
Prosecutors allege that Chacon left Espinoza suffocating in the operating room after her heart stopped, and in that time the doctor allegedly saw four other patients with the goal of selling more services and checking on others. “We found that to be extremely egregious,” Darvas said.
Darvas accused Dr. Chacon of cutting corners to make more money by using an untrained nurse to perform anesthesia on Espinoza. That nurse had been previously charged with involuntary manslaughter for her alleged role in Espinoza’s death.
On Monday, Darvas said that Dr. Chacon told staff to lie to Espinoza’s husband when he phoned to check in on her.
Prosecutors accused him of engaging in a “cover-up,” and said he lied to a 911 operator when he eventually called for help, three hours after Espinoza had lost consciousness.
Darvas said the California Medical Board has filed a motion to have Chacon’s license revoked.
Chacon sat wearing a prisoner’s uniform with his hands shackled while entering a non-guilty plea Monday.
“This should be a civil case. It should not be a criminal case. There’s nothing in Dr. Chacon’s conduct that rises to the level to be charged with second-degree murder. This is a tragic accident. It’s misfortunate and at best it’s a negligence case which has already been settled,” said Marc Carlos.
Darvas told the court that in Chacon was accused in two more medical malpractice cases in 2022.
“Jump on the money train, that’s what they’re doing,” Carlos told reporters, as he noted the same law firm Espinoza’s family used to sue the doctor is bringing the new cases forward.
A judge set Chacon’s bail at $500,000 and rejected the district attorney’s request for a $5 million bond. KGTV learned Chacon posted bail just before 11:45 p.m. Monday.
He will not be allowed to practice surgery at his office until it is accredited, but Chacon can perform surgeries at facilities with accreditation like hospitals.
The judge ruled he must notify any patients interested in surgery that he is facing a murder charge. He also must hand in his passport and can’t leave California.
Chacon’s office was still taking consultations from new patients Monday morning when KGTV reporter Austin Grabish phoned the practice.
The doctor’s Instagram account shows off some of his recent work including liposuction and breast reduction.
His lawyers say he’s performed thousands of surgeries without issue up until Espinoza’s death.
This story was originally published on April 10, 2023, by KGTV in San Diego, an E.W. Scripps Company.