Wednesday, 21 August, 2019

Ohio doctor William Husel accused of murder in 25 patient overdose deaths

Ohio doctor indicted on 25 murder charges for allegedly overprescribing opioids linked to overdose deaths William Husel's booking
Patty Aguilar | 06 June, 2019, 15:57

A critical-care doctor in OH who authorities believe "purposely caused the death" of 25 hospital patients that overdosed on the opioid painkiller fentanyl was arrested and charged with murder Wednesday.

The charges form one of the biggest murder cases ever brought against a USA health care professional. The hospital system said six more patients got doses that were excessive but likely didn't cause their deaths.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien compared Husel's actions to extinguishing a dwindling candle.

Husel, 43, pleaded not guilty after turning himself in earlier in the day. His bond was set at $1 million.

The doctor is the lone defendant.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says doses of 500 micrograms of fentanyl were chosen as a threshold for murder charges because they "hastened" death of these patients and were a violation of OH law that says people must be allowed to die naturally.

"At no time did Dr. Husel ever intend to euthanize anyone - euthanize meaning speed up death", defense attorney Richard Blake said.

The patients were going to die whether they were being treated by Dr Husel or another physician, Mr Blake said.

The suspicious deaths occurred at Mount Carmel and St. Ann's Hospitals in Columbus between February 11, 2015, and November 20, 2018, according to the statement. An internal hospital investigation found that he had ordered potentially fatal drug doses for dozens of patients over his five years at the hospital.

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O'Brien said on Wednesday that authorities had focused on the cases involving Husel in which 500 micrograms or more of Fentanyl had been prescribed. The prosecutor said the investigation remained open and other cases were still under review.

Husel was sacked by his Columbus-area hospital in December.

Husel was sacked after concerns arose, though Mount Carmel has said it should have investigated and removed Husel more quickly.

The health system's officials said Husel wasn't removed from patient care until four weeks after a concern about him was raised last fall, and that three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses he ordered.

Police Sgt. Terry McConnell said none of the affected families police spoke with felt what happened was "mercy treatment".

"She (her mother) was the most caring loving person and if she was still alive today and she heard about this on the news, guaranteed she would have been crying for all these families", Pfaff said Wednesday.

"Trust me, I sit many hours sitting trying to figure out why would he do this to so many people, and I just don't know", Pfaff said.

He also faces at least 19 wrongful death lawsuits, which name the Mount Carmel Health System and some of its pharmacists and nurses.

Mount Carmel CEO Ed Lamb apologized for the tragedy in a video statement.

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