9th lawsuit against Mount Carmel involves patient who died after hospital learned of allegations against doctor

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COLUMBUS – A ninth wrongful death lawsuit is expected to be formally filed against Mount Carmel Health System, Dr. William Husel and caregivers.

The latest lawsuit involves 75-year old Rebecca Walls, a Mount Carmel patient who died on Nov. 19 – one of three patients to have died after the hospital says it learned of allegations about Dr. William Husel’s patient care.

“The idea that there were three more deaths after that investigation started… that's really mind-boggling,” said Attorney Michael Rourke.

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Rourke represents the estate of Walls, who was taken to Mount Carmel West Hospital in November. Rourke said she experienced problems with her kidneys and was later transferred to the ICU under Husel’s care.

Rourke alleges that Walls’ loved one, Janet Watkins, who had Walls’ power of attorney, was convinced by Husel to end life support measures.

It was during this process, Rourke alleges in his complaint, that Husel ordered that Walls be given 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl and 10mg of Versed.

“That was like throwing gas on a fire,” Rourke said. “She died within five to ten minutes. They just killed her.”

No one has been charged with a crime and Husel and his attorneys have declined to comment. Husel medical license has been suspended. The hospital has identified 34 patients who they say received potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. 33 of them occurred at Mount Carmel West; 1 occurred at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s in Westerville.

The latest wrongful death lawsuit alleges Dr. William Husel ordered excessive doses of the pain medication and that failures within Mount Carmel's internal structures allowed it to continue for years.

But they're not the only ones named.

Several of the lawsuits have laid blame at the feet of nurses and pharmacists for administering and approving the drugs. 10 Investigates has spoken to some Mount Carmel employees who asked not to be identified out of fear of reprisal. They say the problem is much more complex than what attorneys or wrongful death lawsuits allege.

They acknowledged that there were occasions when Dr. Husel’s medication orders were challenged by nurses or pharmacists. But they said the larger problem is systemic and has to do with a lack of clear policies and guidelines inside the hospital.

"We take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,” Ed Lamb said in a video statement released to the public on January 14 – the day 10 Investigates broke the story about the first of several lawsuits.

Mount Carmel Health System has changed some policies, including now requiring that nurses and doctor get pharmacy approval before administering drugs when ventilators are being removed.
Attorneys representing other patients have alleged that Dr. Husel may have bypassed the pharmacy approval process in some cases by declaring an emergency.

Husel has been named in several wrongful death lawsuits, accused of ordering “grossly inappropriate” or “excessive” doses of fentanyl be given to 34 near death or intensive care patients. Several of the patients were taken to the ICU at Mount Carmel West after having respiratory troubles. Many died, their attorneys allege, after being given large doses of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller, while they were being removed from a ventilator.

The attorneys have alleged that nurses and pharmacists failed to speak up or question the orders and that the hospital’s internal system of checks and balances failed to stop these deaths from occurring sooner.

“In spite of having knowledge that Dr. Husel was harming patients in this way, Defendant Mount Carmel and Defendant John Doe Hospital Administrators & Employees #1-5 failed to remove Dr. Husel from patient care until November 21, 2018. During this time period, at least three patients, including Rebecca Walls, died after receiving excessive and fatal doses of medications ordered by Dr. Husel.

A copy of the lawsuit was forwarded to 10 Investigates.

A total of 13 patients have now been identified. This latest lawsuit names Rebecca Walls. 10 Investigates on Tuesday first reported the names of patients Corrinnia Blake and Lora Stone, who were identified by their attorneys.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirms to 10 Investigates that it is reviewing a site investigation done at the hospital that began on January 15.

10 Investigates also uncovered a 1996 federal criminal case from West Virginia where WiIlliam Husel took a plea deal to improperly storing a destructive device in a pipe bomb case at a West Virginia college while he was a student. The federal court records state Husel had been accused of trying to frame someone else. 10 Investigates asked the medical board if it was aware of this case and if it would have precluded him from becoming a doctor. We're waiting to hear back from the board.

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