2 more Mount Carmel wrongful death lawsuits settled

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COLUMBUS — The families of two Mount Carmel patients will receive a total of $700,000 in separate settlement agreements stemming from wrongful death lawsuits filed in response to the patient overdose scandal.

Court records reviewed by 10 Investigates show one of the settlements announced this week involves patient Peggy Francies who died in October of 2017. Her death occurred during a week-long spate of patients deaths at Mount Carmel West. Her family will receive a $500,000 settlement.

The other settlement involved patient Sherry White who died in September of 2014. The amount of White’s settlement is $200,000, according to court records. Attorneys’ fees will be removed from both these cases.

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Both of these patients received 200 micrograms of fentanyl respectively — lower amounts of pain medications compared to other patients linked to the scandal. But their attorneys contend that the amounts were inappropriate.

In January, Mount Carmel initially said 27 patients were impacted by the scandal. The figure has now grown to 35.

Both Francies and White were among six patients later identified by the hospital as receiving amounts that “went beyond providing comfort,” but likely weren’t the causes of their deaths.

Mount Carmel has said that 29 of the patients identified received potentially fatal doses. In February, Mount Carmel acknowledged that five patients may have seen their conditions improve with treatment.

These latest settlements bring the total of cases settled to six, according to attorneys presenting patients' families. More could be pending. Since January, 28 wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Mount Carmel and Dr. Husel. Nurses and pharmacists were also named in these complaints;/ While many have seen their names dismissed, they still face sanctions from their respective state regulatory boards.

All patients who died were under the care of Dr. William Husel, a critical care intensivist who the hospital fired in December after an internal investigation. His attorney, Richard Blake, has said that Husel did not intend to accelerate the deaths of these patients.

According to settlement records reviewed by 10 Investigates, Peggy Francies, 73, was transferred to Mount Carmel West on October 8, 2017 due to renal failure and septic shock where she was admitted to the intensive care unit. When her condition did not improve, the family agreed to a “do not resuscitate” order.

That’s when Francies’ attorneys allege that she was administered an “inappropriate dose” of fentanyl pushed through her IV line.

A settlement document shows she was given 200 micrograms of fentanyl and claims:

“Defendant Mount Carmel Health System acknowledged that Peggy should not have been give those doses of fentanyl, under the order of Dr. Husel, when hospital representatives called Peggy’s husband early this year. However, the hospital asserted the fentanyl did not prematurely end Peggy’s life and that Peggy died of other causes. The Estate retained a toxicology and emergency medicine expert to review the care provided,” the settlement document reads. “Those experts concluded that the medications were inappropriate and accelerated Peggy’s death. Despite his medical evidence and testimony, it was true that Peggy was suffering from serious and terminal illness, and likely would not have survived for a long period of time given her illness.”

In White’s case, the 73-year old was admitted to Mount Carmel West on September 24, 2014 due to a concern that she was septic, her settlement records state. Her condition did not improve and “the defendants encouraged Sherry’s family to change her to a do not resuscitate status; the family agreed. Shortly after the DNR order was instituted, Sherry White was prescribed and administered inappropriate doses of fentanyl pushed through her IV line. She was given 100 micrograms, twice, within 15 minutes. She died shortly thereafter.”

Attorneys representing White’s family acknowledged in their settlement documents that Mount Carmel may have asserted the statute of repose — a state law that limits the amount of time plaintiffs have to recover damages in certain cases. That was one reason why White’s attorneys chose to settle.

Mount Carmel released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

“It is our hope that these settlements will bring some measure of closure and comfort to the families. We are committed to doing what is right and fair for all families affected by this tragedy.”

The hospital has enacted a series of changes in wake of the scandal, including placing caps on the dosages of pain medications that are used on patients and requiring more education and oversight when medications are ordered and administered.

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