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Ohio Doctor Acquitted of Murder in Fentanyl Death Cases

An Ohio doctor who caused the death of numerous intensive care patients under the auspices of "comfort care" was found not guilty of fourteen murder counts, USA Today reports. Dr. Willian Husel took these actions at Mount Carmel West Hospital, where he worked from 2013 to 2018. The investigation began into Husel's actions in 25 cases, but prosecutors decided to use only the 14 strongest victims. Of the victims cited by prosecutors, ages ranged from 37 to 82. All died within 30 minutes of Husel's administering fentanyl doses ranging from 500 to 2,000 micrograms. Husel's counsel argued that in each case, death was imminent, and that he was only trying to make his patients' last moments less painful. Husel's attorney, Jose Baez, said "This was the only verdict that justice could have given. . . . [Doctors and nurses trying to give comfort care] don’t need to be looking over their shoulder wondering if they’re ever going to get charged with a crime."

Husel's trial was one of the longest in Ohio's history, lasting seven weeks. Even one guilty count would have given Husel a life sentence with eligibility for parole in 15 years. The hospital fired him in 2018 for ordering excessive painkillers in around 36 cases. His license was suspended by the Ohio Medical Board. In the case of Melissa Penix, 82, Dr. John Schweig of Tampa Bay General Hospital testified that Penix “definitely was not terminal, nor was continuing medical care futile," yet Husel gave her a 2,000 microgram dose of fentanyl that killed her within four minutes. Prosecutors called 53 witnesses compared to only one witness for the defense, a Georgia anesthesiologist who testified that Husel's patients died from medical conditions as opposed to Husel's actions. Husel still faces ten civil lawsuits from families of patients who died under his care. Mount Carmel has paid out over $16.7 million in settlements to patients' families. Mount Carmel also said that while none of Husel's colleagues was criminally charged, they fired 23 nurses, pharmacists, and managers after an internal investigation and referred numerous employees to state boards.


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