Doctor pleads not guilty in painkiller overdose to hospital patients


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — On Wednesday an Ohio critical care doctor pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of 25 hospital patients who authorities say were deliberately given overdoses of painkillers.

  • An overdose of painkillers was prescribed to 25 patients
  • More than two dozen wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Husel and the hospital system.
  • Employees who were part of administering medication have been removed from patient care as a precaution
  • Husel’s medical license has been suspended by the State Medical Board.

Dr. William Husel, 43, appeared in Franklin County Court where his bail is set at $1 million. Husel’s attorney requested a significantly lower bond, arguing he is not a flight risk, has family in Ohio, and has already given his passport to prosecutors.

Husel was fired from the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System in December and stripped of his medical license after allegations of potentially fatal drug doses being ordered for 29 patients over his five years at the hospital.

Franklin County prosecutor, Ron O’Brien, said other medical staff were interviewed and treated as witnesses, but he does not anticipate anyone else to be charged at this time. 

The case against Husel is one of the biggest murder cases brought against a medical professional in the U.S. 

Husel’s lawyer said he did not intend to kill patients. Messages seeking comment were left for that attorney.

Mount Carmel Health System, in October 2018, began investigating Husel and found he may have given pain medication to five people when there still was a chance to improve their conditions with treatment. Six more patients got doses that were excessive but probably did not directly cause their deaths. Many of the deceased patients were seriously ill.

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

Mount Carmel Health System officials said he was not removed from patient care until four weeks after a concern about him was raised last fall, during which time three patients died after getting excessive doses Husel ordered.

Mount Carmel officials pledged to continue cooperating with authorities after Husel was charged Wednesday. 

More than two dozen wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Husel and the Mount Carmel Health System. Families alleged their loved ones were negligently or intentionally killed by painkiller overdoses ordered by him. None of the affected families police spoke with felt that what happened was “mercy treatment,” said Police Sgt. Terry McConnell. 

Mount Carmel has publicly apologized and already settled some of the civil cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

All employees who were part of administering medication for affected patients have been removed from patient care as a precaution, according to the Hospital system officials. 

Officials state that there were 48 nurses and pharmacists under review that were reported to their respective boards. 30 of those employees were put on leave, and 18 no longer work there, including some who left years ago.

Husel previously was a supervised resident at the Cleveland Clinic, where his work is under internal investigation. It said a preliminary review found his prescribing practices there were “consistent with appropriate care.”

Husel’s medical license has been suspended by the State Medical Board.

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