Mount Carmel Health responds to Dr. Husel's defamation lawsuit

Former Mount Carmel Doctor William Husel in court on August 28, 2019 (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – Mount Carmel Health System has filed its response to a defamation lawsuit filed by Dr. William Husel, who sued the hospital in December, claiming he was falsely accused of intentionally murdering 25 patients.

Husel, who was fired by the hospital in December of 2018 following an internal investigation, has been charged with 25 counts of murder – accused of ordering large doses of fentanyl.

Husel has pleaded not guilty to the charges and awaits a June trial.

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The hospital system released a statement Tuesday, saying:

"Our priority at Trinity Health and Mount Carmel is the overall care and well-being of our patients and the health and wellness of the entire community we serve. All that we have done and continue to do reflects this commitment. Dr. Husel’s defamation lawsuit has no merit, and we will defend our position vigorously."

A total of 31 wrongful death lawsuits were filed against Husel and Mount Carmel in wake of the patient overdose scandal. The hospital has paid out more than $13 million in settlements.

At times, attorneys for Husel and the hospital system appeared to be in lock-step – both sought to have the wrongful death lawsuits placed on hold while Husel’s criminal trial was still pending. Those legal efforts failed.

But Husel has also sued Mount Carmel’s parent company, Trinity Health, arguing that the company’s insurance policy should pay for his criminal defense fees. The hospital has rejected that claim in federal court filings - saying the allegations of murder are not insurable.

Attorneys representing patients’ families say that Husel ordered “excessive” and “grossly inappropriate” doses of painkillers that were given to 35 patients in Mount Carmel’s intensive care unit between 2014 and 2018. Prosecutors chose to focus their criminal case around the 25 patients who received 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more.

A 10 Investigates’ review of hospital inspection records showed health inspectors found lax internal controls within the hospital which allowed nurses easy access to powerful painkillers like fentanyl. None of the nurses or pharmacists initially named in the wrongful death lawsuits have been criminal charged but could face potential punishments from their respective state licensure boards.

In December, Husel sued Mount Carmel Health System and its parent company, Trinity Health in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Lawyers for the former Mount Carmel doctor allege that he was falsely accused by Mount Carmel and its corporate executives of intentionally murdering 25 patients.

The complaint they filed says these statements were repeated on numerous occasions in “non-stop” press releases and other public statements.

The complaint also claims in 2014 and 2015, Husel gave terminally ill patients relatively lower doses (200 and 400 mcg of fentanyl) and realized the patients were still suffering.

Husel’s attorneys say these cases had “a profound” effect on Husel and he believed that large doses may be needed but that each one of those decisions is “patient specific.”

His attorneys have also told reporters that he was providing comfort care to dying patients in their finals moments.