The criminal charges filed against William Husel, brought by Ohio prosecutors earlier this year, were nothing short of a nightmare. The former doctor was charged with 25 counts of murder, accused of killing his patients with fatal overdoses of the powerful opioid fentanyl.
Prosecutors claimed that the amounts Husel prescribed for his patients were five to twenty times higher than the standard recommended dose and had no medical purpose other than to end patients' lives. Husel pleaded not guilty and his lawyer characterized the case as “an indictment on comfort care, claiming that his client did nothing more than provide medication to ease the suffering of dying patients.
According to the prosecution, Husel began prescribing the fatal doses in September of 2014 and the doses (and the deaths) continued until November of 2018 when Husel was removed from duty and later fired after pharmacists raised concerns about his prescribing practices. Husel prescribed the high doses at two hospitals in the Mount Carmel Health System in central Ohio. An investigation of medical records showed that many of the victims were near death when they received treatment from Husel, but the hospital tentatively identified five patients whose conditions may have improved without the drugs. Husel's lawyer claimed that characterizing any of the patients as having been able to recover was “absolutely false.”
The fallout from the charges has drastically affected the Mount Carmel Health System. Multiple families have filed wrongful death suits against the organization, the chief executive and chief clinical officer voluntarily stepped down, and more than 20 other employees have been fired, including nurses and pharmacists who played a role in delivering and administering the fatal doses. Husel's license to practice medicine was suspended in January 2019 by the State Medical Board of Ohio.
This week, a new chapter in the legal saga unfolded. William Husel has also sued the Mount Carmel Health System in addition to its parent organization, Trinity Health Corporation. Husel claims he is the victim of defamation, claiming that he did nothing wrong and did not deviate from hospital policy on end-of-life care. His lawsuit against the organization states, “It would not be an exaggeration to state that Dr. Husel has suffered perhaps the most egregious case of defamation in Ohio's recent history.” He further claimed that he received no formal training on hospital procedures from Mount Carmel when he was hired in 2013 as a critical care physician.
Mount Carmel and Trinity Health responded with a statement calling the allegations “unfounded" and stating: “We completed an extensive review of patient care provided by Dr. William Husel and stand by our decisions.” Husel's lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages in addition to attorney fees.