Families pursue civil suits again one-time Mount Carmel doctor.
Ohio physician, Dr. William Husel, who at one time was employed at the Mount Carmel Hospital System, allegedly ordered extremely high doses of pain medication prescriptions, including the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, for his patients, leading to the deaths of at least twenty-five people under Husel’s care.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 times stronger than morphine. Prescription-based fentanyl was initially created for pain management in the treatment of cancer patients and is typically applied in a patch on the skin. However, because of its powerful opioid properties, the drug has since also been diverted for abuse. It is commonly mixed with heroin to increase its potency, which has led to many deaths.
In late 2021, Rep. Greg Murphy (Republican, N.C.) headed a group of fellow GOP Doctors Caucus members in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking that he take a closer look at the increasing illicit fentanyl crisis that is plaguing the U.S., especially at the southern border. As the problem is on the rise, Husel will now have to face civil lawsuits from the families impacted.
“The deaths are a result of Husel’s prescribing of opioid painkillers,” prosecutors contended in his criminal case. Husel had insisted he did not intend for the dosages to be lethal and, in the majority of cases, was trying to “provide comfort care.” Causing prolonged addiction or death was “never intended,” and he pleaded not guilty.
Husel’s defense attorneys argued in a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, that he prescribed 500 micrograms of the pain management drug and this dosage would not be lethal for most individuals. Thus, Husel cannot be held responsible for their deaths. Defense attorney Jaime Lapidus said, “That’s where the answer lies: What was exactly told to that grand jury, whether it was false or not, and whether it was knowingly false.”
Despite the evidence against him, Husel won his criminal case after a seven-week trial, which disappointed the plaintiffs who are still seeking to hold the physician accountable for his actions. They’ve chosen to go the civil route to make sure this happens. With regards to the criminal case decision, civil attorney Gerry Leeseberg recently announced that the families “are frustrated and disappointed” but added he “expected this outcome” and will move forward in trying to pursue justice for those involved.
“Our obligation in the civil cases is to prove that Dr. Husel acted inappropriately, and didn’t comply with accepted standards of medical practice,” said Leeseberg. “And as anybody that followed the trial saw very clearly, even from the testimony of everybody from Mount Carmel, Dr. Husel did not comply with accepted standards of medical practice.”
Medical personnel working alongside Husel at Mount Carmel and actually administering the fentanyl were never criminally charged. However, nearly two dozen nurses, pharmacists and managers were terminated after the onset of the Mount Carmel investigation. Some were referred for state boards to consider disciplinary action. Husel was terminated from his position in 2018.