COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two former Mount Carmel nurses testified Monday that they asked questions about Dr. William Husel’s medication orders --- either from other nurses or from Husel directly - but were given explanations about why the doctor believed the dosages were appropriate for critically ill or dying patients.
Husel is on trial, charged with 14 counts of murder – accused of overprescribing medications to the patients under his care.
He’s pleaded not guilty. His defense team has said that Husel – while aggressive with pain medications – was giving large doses of fentanyl and other medications as comfort care to prevent his patients from suffering “a bad death.”
Monday marked the fourth week of testimony in the trial that is expected to last 8 to 10 weeks.
When asked about Husel’s drug orders, nurse Jacob Deemer testified Monday that he would ask questions of Husel, saying: “I wanted to understand his rationale. It’s not really seeking it because of the medication. Any time an order Is being placed I want some context. This is a different dose than what I had given.”
Deemer said he learned a lot during his time working on the intensive care unit of Mount Carmel West – including leaning on Husel for knowledge – noting that Husel had a reputation for being “highly trained” from the Cleveland Clinic, someone who “knew his stuff.”
Deemer acknowledged that he considered Husel to be a mentor.
When referring to a dose of 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl that Husel ordered for a patient, Deemer said he went to Husel to ask him about the dosage.
“I sought the clarification because I wanted to get a sense of where is your head is at,” he said.
As a prosecution witness, nurse Jacob Deemer said it was “common knowledge on the nightshift that Husel knew his stuff, was well trained” and that Deemer – who is now a nurse anesthetist – said he thought he could learn from Husel since he had been trained in anesthesia.
Later in the day, jurors heard from nurse Jamie Bourke, who treated 37-year old Brandy McDonald, a woman who was at Mount Carmel West’s ICU in January of 2018.
Bourke said McDonald – who had ovarian cancer – came to the hospital after having trouble breathing. After being intubated and with her condition deteriorating while on a ventilator, Bourke testified how Dr. Husel remarked about how many vials of fentanyl Bourke had to pull from a medication dispensing machine in order to fill his order for 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl.
“He said ‘ oh you have to do all those little vials?’ Bourke said, adding that Husel said in the operating room the vials are larger than 100 micrograms. Husel told her the vials in the operating room were 400 microgram vials – noting that this was “the dose we give for open-heart surgery.”
Bourke said she thought if this was enough for open-heart surgery, it would be enough to address any potential pain for a palliative patient who had her ventilator removed and was going to suffocate.