Ohio Doctor Declared Not Guilty In 14 Alleged Overdose Deaths
Dr. William Husel was found not guilty after prosecutors alleged he intentionally overdosed 14 dying patients with fentanyl, a highly potent opioid.
A doctor working at a Columbus, Ohio, hospital was found not guilty of murdering at least 14 people between 2015 and 2018.
Dr. William Husel, 46, who worked nights at the now-shuttered Mount Carmel West Hospital, was accused of using large amounts of fentanyl to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients in his care. When the story first broke in 2019, authorities believed Husel had fatally overdosed as many as 25 patients, though he was only tried for 14 of those cases.
The verdict came after a seven-week trial and five days of deliberation by a Franklin County, Ohio, jury. The prosecution relied on the testimony of more than 50 witnesses, including family members of the deceased, coworkers, and a physician who alleged that Husel was prescribing exponentially more fentanyl than was necessary to control pain, CBS News reported.
Ultimately, prosecutors only brought charges in 14 of the deaths where they believed the evidence against Husel was the strongest.
Victims Of Crime Or Recipients Of Compassion?
The 14 people at the center of the case ranged in age from 39 to 82, and they all died just minutes after receiving a minimum of 500 micrograms of fentanyl while in the hospital, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Troy Allison, 44, died in July 2018 just three minutes after receiving 1000 micrograms of the highly potent drug. Some patients received doses of 2000 micrograms.
According to the FDA, fentanyl doses are typically between 20 and 50 micrograms.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Husel intentionally gave the patients too much fentanyl, and that choice caused their deaths, CNN reported.
Husel’s attorney, Jose Baez, maintained that Husel was working to keep terminally ill patients comfortable as they were removed from life support and noted that there is no law in Ohio that caps the amount of fentanyl that can be prescribed by a doctor.
The jury was deadlocked as they deliberated on April 18, telling the judge they couldn’t come to an agreement. After a lunch break, the jury reportedly asked for the definition of “reasonable doubt.”
Two days later, on April 20, they announced their verdict: not guilty on all counts.
Husel had been facing decades in prison if convicted. His license to practice medicine has been suspended.
Husel’s Prior Legal Troubles
This was not the doctor’s first encounter with the criminal justice system. According to The New York Times, Husel was arrested during his freshman year at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia after he and a friend allegedly planned to blow up another student’s car with a pipe bomb. He served six months in jail and one year of supervised probation for his role, the New York Times reported.