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Colorado: CCA Doctor Disciplined for Role in Prisoner’s Death

In December 2012, the Colorado Medical Board concluded its inquiry into a complaint filed against Dr. David Mark Sakai Oba, who provided medical services at the CCA-operated Bent County Correctional Facility (BCCF), and issued an admonishment.

Terrell D. Griswold, 26, was incarcerated at BCCF in September 2009 when he filed a sick call request due to persistent pain in his side and blood in his urine. He stated he had a weak urine stream and wanted to have his prostate checked, and filed another sick call request two months later.

He was seen on December 3, 2009 by Dr. Oba, who, according to a subsequent lawsuit filed by Griswold’s mother, was “an employee and/or agent of CCA.” Dr. Oba diagnosed a urinary obstruction and ordered antibiotics, though Griswold never received them as the prison clinic said they were not available.

He received no other medical treatment for his urinary obstruction, and while the prescription for antibiotics was renewed by Dr. Oba in May 2010, they reportedly were never given to Griswold.

According to the suit, Oba “was aware his orders for medications were routinely not carried out, but he did nothing to correct the situation. It was Dr. Oba’s duty, as a physician, to ensure his orders were carried out in a timely manner or to take whatever action was needed to provide treatment. Dr. Oba’s orders for treatment were a façade.”

Griswold was seen at the prison clinic for medical complaints on October 22, 2010; he said he was experiencing pain, diarrhea and blood in his urine, plus difficulty swallowing and a smell like bleach or ammonia in his nose.

Dr. Oba, reached by phone, ordered antibiotics and fluids. He did not evaluate Griswold in person. Although Griswold continued to complain of pain and worsening symptoms, he did not receive medical care and died in his cell on October 28, 2010. [See: PLN, Feb. 2012, p.24].

An autopsy revealed that Griswold had a complete urinary blockage, though the medical examiner listed the cause of death as hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Griswold’s mother, Lagalia A. Afola, who had worked as a medical assistant, questioned the medical examiner, who amended his report six months later. Afola filed a federal lawsuit against CCA, Dr. Oba and other BCCF employees in September 2012, and also filed a complaint with the Colorado Medical Board.

The Board concluded that Dr. Oba’s “care and treatment of [Griswold] fell below the generally accepted standards of practice for a physician, constituting a violation of section 12-36-117 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.” The Board noted that although Griswold “had a history of poorly-controlled hypertension, urinary problems, and elevated serum creatinine levels, you failed to recognize and take appropriate action in connection with the signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease.”

The Board declined to pursue formal proceedings against Dr. Oba, but issued an admonishment on December 6, 2012 and cautioned him “that complaints disclosing any repetition of such practice may lead to the commencement of formal disciplinary proceedings against your license to practice medicine, wherein this letter of admonition may be entered into evidence as aggravation.”

The federal lawsuit filed by Griswold’s mother remains pending. See: Afola v. CCA, U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:12-cv-02394-JLK.

Additional sources:; letter from Colorado Medical Board, Case No. 2012-1036-A (Dec. 6, 2012)

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Related legal case

Afola v. CCA