Eight wrongful death lawsuits level allegations against former doctor, Mount Carmel Health System

File photo (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS – The language in the seventh and eighth pending lawsuits are strikingly similar to other wrongful death lawsuits filed in wake of the scandal at Mount Carmel West Hospital, where 28 patients are believed to have received fatal doses of fentanyl over the past three years.

At least 34 patients are believed to have been impacted – 28 were given fatal doses, and six others were given doses that “went beyond providing comfort” but likely were not the cause of their deaths, the hospital has said.

The hospital is still investigating the matter but said it was first informed through a “formal report” of an allegation involving Dr. William Husel on October 25, 2018 – the day after patient James Nickolas Timmons, 39, died after receiving a 1,000 microgram dose of fentanyl, his family’s attorney says.

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Three more patients died between October 25 and Nov. 21 – when the hospital decided to remove Husel from patient care. The hospital has said it should have acted to sooner to remove Husel and has apologized to patients’ families for what it calls a “tragedy.”

10 Investigates obtained a copy of a seventh wrongful death lawsuit, which was still pending Monday, and was not available through online court records.

It alleges that Dr. William Husel, a former Mount Carmel critical care doctor and intensivist, ordered that “grossly inappropriate” amounts of fentanyl be given to near death or intensive care patients.

It was filed on behalf of the family of Jeremia “Sue” Hodge.

It states that around April 1, 2018, Hodge was experiencing shortness of breath and was transported by squad to the emergency department of Mount Carmel West. While there, the lawsuit alleges, they checked her heart and had her evaluated in the cath lab before admitting her to the ICU where she came under the care of Dr. Husel.

The pending lawsuit names Husel, Mount Carmel Health System, its parent company Trinity Health, and anonymous “John and Jane Doe” nurses, pharmacists and physicians as defendants.

It alleges that Dr. Husel ordered “grossly inappropriate” amounts of fentanyl be given to Hodge, which was in excess of 500 micrograms of fentanyl. It also alleges that Husel told Hodge’s family that her organs were shutting down and that they needed to make a decision about whether to withdraw life support.

“Dr. Husel then ordered a fatal dose of the drug fentanyl be given to Jeremia Hodge through her IV,” the lawsuit alleges.

“We don’t want it to happen to no one else. We can’t bring our mom back but we don’t want anyone else to lose theirs because the protocols were lost not followed,” Sue’s son, Robert Hodge told reporters Monday.

The family’s attorney, David Shroyer, alleges that the vials in his client’s case contained 50 micrograms, meaning the nurse would have had to pull out 16 vials and then administer the drugs.

“She was the glue that held us together and now we have to go through everything of losing her again,” Robert Hodge told reporters.

An eighth wrongful death lawsuit, filed by the law firm of Leeseberg & Valentine, which represents the families of 12 of the patients, alleges that 85-year old Norma Welch received a total of 900 micrograms of fentanyl.

Husel was fired by Mount Carmel West Hospital in early December. Twenty caregivers – including 14 nurses and 6 pharmacists – were removed from patient care.

Husel has declined to comment, so have his attorneys.

On Friday, the state medical board voted to suspend Husel’s medical license. He declined to answer the board’s questions during an appearance on January 22, and invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, the medical board said.

Among the questions he declined to answer:

  • What is your understanding of a lethal dose of fentanyl?
  • What is your understanding of the toxicity of fentanyl when it is combined with a benzodiazepine?
  • In twenty-seven patients identified by Mount Carmel as receiving potentially lethal doses of fentanyl or a combination of fentanyl and midazolam, did you administer drugs to these patients for the purpose of ending their lives?

The Ohio Department of Medicaid also suspended Husel’s provider agreement and alleged he committed fraud for providing “medically unnecessary services involving grossly inappropriate” amounts of Fentanyl, a department spokesman said. The department sent its findings to the Ohio Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Unit.

Husel has not been charged with a crime. But both the Columbus Division of Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office have said that they have an active ongoing investigation into the matter.

The Ohio Department of Health has also conducted a site investigation at the hospital on behalf of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a wing of the federal government’s Department of Health and Human Services that has oversight over hospital quality and patient safety.

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