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Oklahoma County jail inmate deaths attributed to inadequate medical care, records show

An attorney says Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel and the Oklahoma County board of commissioners are responsible for failure by the county jail's former medical contractor to provide medications and proper staffing.
by Tim Willert Published: March 25, 2013

Appellate judges decided 3-0 that Holdstock's daughters should get an opportunity to prove their claim.

“That's all we wanted in the first place was a jury trial,” said E.W. Keller, the Oklahoma City attorney representing Holdstock's family. “To me it's a very egregious case.”

Between May 28, 2007, and Jan. 1, 2009, seven men died while incarcerated because they did not receive proper medical treatment, reports from Oklahoma Health Department investigators show.

The inmates suffered from various conditions, including sepsis, seizures and heart trouble.

In each case, investigators found that the jail's ex-medical contractor failed to provide prescription medications, medical equipment and supplies or document medical encounters.

Keller also represented the families of two other men who died in custody. Both cases settled out of court for amounts kept confidential as part of the agreements, the attorney said.

In Holdstock's case, there was no evidence he ever received follow-up care recommended by doctors in 2008 for a pacemaker he had.

The judges found the jail's medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma, didn't follow up on abnormal blood test results two weeks before Holdstock died.

Dr. Ralph Lazzara testified in a deposition that the death “could have been prevented” if Holdstock had been treated for kidney failure that was reasonably likely to have been caused by the pacemaker not working.

Lazzara, formerly chief of cardiology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said the abnormal blood results were related to kidney failure.

Commissioner terminated its contract with Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma in September 2009 and sued the company in October 2010, claiming breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud, court records show.

“Suffice it to say, there have been significant changes that have been brought about by our (current) medical provider,” Whetsel said Friday. has disabled the comments for this article.
by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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