Ohio doctor overprescribed opioids leading to many deaths, according to prosecutors.
Ohio physician, Dr. William Husel, 46, who at one time was employed at the Mount Carmel Hospital System, allegedly ordered markedly high doses of pain medication prescriptions for his patients, leading to the deaths of at least twenty-five people under his care. Even though the one-time doctor has that many murder cases against him, he is hoping to have all of these dismissed. Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook is overseeing the case.
The deaths are a result of Husel’s prescribing of opioid painkillers, prosecutors contend, including fentanyl. Husel has 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 has pleaded not guilty.
Mount Carmel President and CEO, Ed Lamb, said at the time of Husel’s indictment, “We are sorry for this tragedy, and we will continue to investigate how we responded to this report and whether there is any other information that should have led us to investigate sooner into Dr. Husel’s practices.”
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. Unfortunately, individuals addicted to illicit heroin commonly believe they are purchasing pure versions of the drug when they are actually consuming heroin and fentanyl at the same time. It doesn’t help that doctors like Husel have used their medical licenses to overprescribe.
Frequent misuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction. Dependence occurs when the body gets used to having the drug, and there is an onset of withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped suddenly. Tolerance also builds up in the body due to long-term use, causing an individual to need higher doses of the drug in order to reach the same levels of “high” as before. Opioids, including fentanyl, are highly addictive.
Defense attorneys argued in a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, that Husel prescribed 500 micrograms of the pain management drug and this dosage would not be lethal for most individuals. Thus, he 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.”
The court proceedings have remained somewhat secretive. David Zeyen, an assistant prosecutor, said, “It is mere speculation on their part as to what was presented to the grand jury.”
Medical personnel who actually administered 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.