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Expert testimony gathered ahead of Mount Carmel nursing hearings

Attorneys representing some of 25 nurses who could face discipline declined to answer questions Tuesday.

COLUMBUS (WBNS) -- Expert testimony is being gathered this week that could be used in some of the upcoming disciplinary hearings for Mount Carmel nurses tied to the patient overdose scandal.

While none of the nurses have been charged criminally, they could face disciplinary sanctions from the state board of nursing for their alleged roles in the scandal.

Letters sent to the nurses last year from the Ohio Board of Nursing state that the nurses had a duty to question the prescription orders from Dr. William Husel or should have known that doses could have been potentially harmful.

Attorneys representing some of 25 nurses who could face discipline declined to answer questions Tuesday.

Mount Carmel Health System administrators have said that a total of 35 patients were given “excessive” or “potentially fatal” doses of pain medications between 2014 and 2018. All the patients who died were under the care of Dr. William Husel.

The hospital fired Husel after an internal investigation and later fired or placed on leave several nurses and pharmacists involved in administering or filling the prescription orders.

Husel has been charged with the murder of 25 of the patients who prosecutors say got 500 micrograms of fentanyl or more. He has pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for former Mount Carmel employees and Dr. Husel have said that the hospital defamed them and erred in their decision to fire employees.

Husel’s previous criminal attorney said his client was providing comfort care to dying patients. Husel is now represented by attorneys Diane Menashe and Jose Baez.

The purpose of this week’s hearings is to interview expert witnesses who could testify on behalf of the state of Ohio during disciplinary hearings before the board of nursing.

Sarah Blowers - an expert witness for the state of Ohio - says she reviewed patient records, Mount Carmel policies and orders from the automated medication dispensing machine.

Blowers has experience as an ICU nurse and while she testified several times that there is “no maximum dose” or “ceiling” on how much of an opioid drug can be given to a patient she did say dosages are patient-specific — depending not only on if you are treating pain or shortness of breath but it also depends on the individual patient’s age, weight, medical condition, etc.

“There is never a ceiling in opiates except for the adverse side effects… ,” she said.

Blowers said the “patient’s condition is what matters” and that “you may need larger doses if the patient is in distress.”

Blowers also said it’s a nurse’s responsibility to question medication orders and that when administering opioids for patients nurses should use titration.

“Start low and go slow,” she said.

Testimony from Blowers and two other nurses set to serve as expert witnesses is expected to take place over the next two days this week and more next week.

New outlets may attend these meetings, but video and audio recordings have been barred.