Dr. William Husel and the Mount Carmel Health System are now facing civil liability for the deaths of at least eight patients who allegedly were given lethal dosages of pain medication. Mount Carmel is a large regional system that is operating as a part of the Trinity Health System. Authorities from both Franklin County and the Columbus Police Department have been reviewing the situation for several months. The allegations are that the defendants were negligent and failed to adhere to proper safety practices. Fentanyl is believed to be the narcotic medication that led to the fatalities. No criminal charges have been filed.
The investigation has thus far been a very lengthy process. There could be dozens of potential victims and investigators have a substantial amount of medical records to review. The prosecutor's office is looking into each alleged incident individually. The problem has been exacerbated by the considerable media attention that is scrutinizing the process.
Doctor's Medical License Revoked
Thus far eight deceased patients are believed to have received the medication at a level that was excessive. The investigation is attempting to determine whether any opportunity existed to reverse the medical conditions of the deceased patients. The State's Medical Board has since had Dr. Husel's medical license suspended. Initial reports of Husel's past did not show that he had been disciplined in the past.
Series of Events Involving 80-Year-Old Victim
- James G. Allen entered the hospital with a “yellowish” appearance and was determined to have gallstones and an infection
- The initial treatment sought to treat the infection with antibiotics in the Intensive Care Unit
- He next experienced hypotension (low blood pressure) and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat)
- Several hours later Allen's family was told he was in stable condition
- His family returned after a shift change and was abruptly told that his organs were failing
- Hours later, the family made the decision to remove Allen from the ventilator and he was pronounced dead
The Responsibility of Health System
A spokesman on behalf of Mount Carmel issued a statement. They acknowledged that an investigation was underway internally regarding Dr. Husel. They emphasized their commitment to remaining “transparent” and to respect the “privacy and rights of those involved” in the matter. After receiving an initial report, the administration acted to prevent Husel from providing additional medical care. They also confirmed that at least three patients appear to have been administered excessive amounts of pain medication.
Narcotic Pain Medication Problem
Fentanyl is a narcotic pain medication that is classified as an opioid. The problems with opioid abuse have been looming large across the country in recent years. The number of related overdoses rose by roughly 12% from 2016 to 2017. The total in 2016 was estimated to be slightly over 63,000 and then rose to over 70,000. The states that have had the greatest number of overdose fatalities include West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.
Hospital Medication Errors
Medication-related errors commonly are the reason for cases of medical malpractice. Often the patient is given the wrong medication, or an improper dosage as was the case here. Other mistakes include administering medications to the wrong patient, at the wrong time, and via the wrong method of delivery (orally, injection, etc.)