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Dentist must answer charges

A South Lake Tahoe dentist was held to answer Wednesday to charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 37-year-old man.

If convicted Dr. Richard Carl Griswold could face up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Griswold also is facing the possible revocation of his dental license.

A formal accusation filed with the California Attorney General’s Office accuses the dentist of gross negligence, repeated acts of negligence, and incompetent dental treatment in connection with the death of Scott Louis Gullin.



Griswold extracted eight of Gullin’s teeth in an office procedure in July 1998 at Preventive Dental Care Centers in the El Dorado Center. Gullin was found dead in his South Shore home by a roommate on July 30, approximately 30 hours after the procedure. South Lake Tahoe police investigators said Gullin, who was suffering from liver disease making it hard for his blood to clot, slowly bled to death.

During a preliminary hearing of the charges last week in El Dorado Superior Court, Lynn Thornton, a senior investigator with the Board of Dental examiners, testified that Gullin died of acute blood loss from the extractions. Thornton told the court that an expert dental board investigator reviewed the case and found Griswold showed incompetence and gross negligence when he failed to follow up on Gullin’s medical history.




Gullin checked “no” on a medical history questionnaire which asked if he was in good health, and checked that he had high blood pressure. Thornton said the expert concluded that is was incumbent on Griswold to delve further and ask Gullin what those answers meant. Thornton said witnesses in the clinic on the day of Gullin’s procedure said Gullin was visibly sick when he came into the office. And one office worker claimed Gullin was yellow with jaundice.

Gullin filled out the questionnaire on his first visit to the office on June 23, 1998, and at the time checked that he did not have hepatitis, jaundice, or liver disease On July 11, Gullin was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver at Barton Memorial Hospital. Gullin’s forensic autopsy found Gullin was in the end stages of liver disease, had congestive heart failure, hypertension, and hepatitis, Thornton said.

Griswold’s defense attorney William Routsis, of the law firm Laub and Laub, argued that his client’s actions did not raise to a criminal level and that the majority of fault lay with Gullin for not informing Griswold of his medical condition.

“There is no evidence that the teeth were extracted improperly. The only fault they can lay on this man is that he didn’t recognize (Gullin) was dying of liver disease. (Gullin) sat for 30 hours and slowly bled to death. He had no regard for his own life,” Routsis said.

Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara told the court that Gullin placed his well being in the doctor’s hands and lost.

“Unfortunately we’re hearing the argument, well, (Gullin) was poor. He might have been a little dirty, and he’s going to die anyway, let us just let this one go. Witnesses say this patient wasn’t lucid. He’s relying on a doctor to take care of him, he shouldn’t wind up dead,” O’Hara said.

A trial was set for Nov. 29.

The 66-year-old dentist received his license in 1963. He graduated in 1962 from Loma Linda University, located southeast of San Bernardino, Calif.

This is the first accusation ever filed against the dentist in his 36 years of practice, according to dental board’s enforcement program records.


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