Ohio doctor charged with murder in deaths of 25 hospitalized patients

An Ohio doctor was charged with murder Wednesday in the deaths of 25 hospitalized patients after he allegedly ordered excessive doses of painkillers to help end their lives.

William Husel, D.O., a critical care doctor, was arrested and charged with murder as authorities say he deliberately ordered overdoses of fentanyl that were given to patients at Mount Carmel and St. Ann’s hospitals in Columbus.

Husel, 43, who was fired last December after an investigation by the Mount Carmel Health System, was indicted by a grand jury on 25 counts of murder, according to the Franklin County prosecutor’s office. Husel pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a judge set bail at $1 million, according to the Associated Press.

Many of the patients who died were on ventilators and receiving palliative care. Husel’s lawyer said he was trying to provide “comfort care” for dying patients, the Associated Press said.

The doctor faces a prison sentence of 15 years to life on each charge if found guilty, according to the prosecutor’s office. The deaths occurred between February 2015 and November 2018. Each count in the indictment alleges Husel “purposely caused the death” of each of the patients. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Husel ordered between 500 and 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl, which was administered to patients and hastened or caused their deaths.

The Mount Carmel Health System issued a statement Wednesday saying it will continue cooperating with authorities and making “meaningful changes” to ensure such events never happen again, the Associated Press report said.

Husel worked at Mount Carmel for five years until he was fired last December and stripped of his medical license after concerns about patient deaths were brought to the attention of hospital officials.

More than two dozen wrongful death lawsuits have been brought against Husel and the hospital system.

Husel is the only person charged in the case; authorities are not prosecuting nurses, pharmacists or other healthcare workers in the deaths. Some 48 nurses and pharmacists were reported to their professional boards and could face disciplinary action, the Associated Press said.