Defense seeks to dismiss 25 murder charges against doctor accused of killing patients
Forty patients died under Dr. William Husel's care between 2014 and 2018.
(ABC News) – Defense attorneys for a former Ohio doctor charged with 25 counts of murder for allegedly ordering fatal doses of pain medication for patients are looking to have the charges dismissed.
William Husel, a former critical-care physician for Mount Carmel Health in Columbus, was arrested in June and pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from 2015 to 2018. The criminal investigation began after detectives received information that “numerous patients” had died while being treated by Husel while he was at Mount Carmel Health in December 2018.
The motion Husel’s attorneys filed in a Franklin County court Wednesday stem from what they say is new evidence, in which a patient who died but was not included in the murder charges, lived for 10 days after she was prescribed the fentanyl and after the pain medication was out of her system.
The patient, named “T.Y.” in the court documents, was one of 16 patients who died after receiving 500 milligrams or more of fentanyl ordered by Husel but was not included in the murder charges.
On Nov. 23, 2014, Husel treated T.Y. in the intensive care unit while working the night shift, according to the court documents. Before Husel’s shift started, the patient’s family had discussed with the dayshift physician that they wanted to stop further care and proceeded with removing her endotracheal tube. The daytime physician assured them that T.Y. would be given medication to make her more comfortable, and Husel ordered 500 milligrams of fentanyl for her prior to the procedure, the motion states.
The medications were administered 8:10 p.m., and T.Y. was then extubated, according to court documents. Five minutes later, she began “lifting self out of bed, gasping for air,” the motion states, citing her medical records. Husel then administered an additional 500 milligrams, but her pain score remained at an “eight” at 8:25 p.m., so Husel ordered an additional 1,000 milligrams to be administered, according to the court documents.
At 8:30 p.m., T.Y.’s breathing was “labored, shallow, and abnormally rapid,” the motion states, and at 8:47 p.m. her pain score remained at an eight, so Husel ordered an additional 500 milligrams.
By 9:02 p.m., T.Y.’s pain score was at a zero, the motion states. She received a total of 2,500 milligrams of fentanyl within 37 minutes throughout the night, according to the court documents.
T.Y. was transferred out of the ICU and into the palliative care unit the next day. She stopped breathing more than 10 days after the initial 2,500 milligrams of fentanyl were administered, on Dec. 3, 2014, the motion states.
The court documents do not detail T.Y.’s cause of death but state that any trace of fentanyl “had long been eliminated” by the time of her death.
T.Y.’s medical record could assist in demonstrating that “a patient can receive these medications and and subsequently live for days” and therefore provide an argument against the allegation that the medications prescribed by Husel “hastened death,” according to the court documents.
According to the motion, the charges against Husel should be dismissed due to misconduct by Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien “on the grounds that the prosecution presented evidence to the grand jury which substantially influenced their deliberations.” The defense also claims that O’Brien provided “false information” to a grand jury when stating that 500 milligrams of fentanyl is a lethal dose. The grand jury indictment against Husel states that the “lethal” doses were prescribed by him with an “intent to kill.”
“Prosecutor O’Brien chose not to seek an Indictment against Dr. Husel for the death of T.Y. because he knew that presenting the evidence to the grand jury would reveal the truth — that 500 milligrams of fentanyl is not a ‘lethal dose,’ and that administering such a dose does not indicate an intent to cause or hasten death,” the motion states.
O’Brien did not immediately response to ABC News’ request for comment.
In an interview with ABC Columbus affiliate WSYX after the hearing on Wednesday, O’Brien said the defense should focus on the patient cases that are included in the indictment, adding that no experts have stated that the levels of fentanyl prescribed by Husel were appropriate.
“What we’re seeing here today, frankly, is a celebrity lawyer from Miami who practices law this way,” O’Brien said. “We handle our cases professionally, ethically and legally in this county. I don’t know what they do in Miami, but what I saw in court today is a poor reflection.”
When asked why the motion was just filed this week, defense attorney Jose Baez said he had just received the new information on T.Y.’s case.
“We’re interested in the public knowing the truth,” he told reporters after Husel’s court appearance. “We’re interested in the truth coming out. We’re interested in all information coming out and not hidden all of a sudden by third parties or even by the state of Ohio.”
ABC News’ Enjoli Francis, Cheryl Gendron, Rachel Katz, and Kathleen Hendry contributed to this report.