A former Ohio doctor was acquitted of murder Wednesday after he was charged hastened the death of 14 critically ill patients by administering large doses of the powerful pain reliever fentanyl.
William Husel faces one count of murder per patient. He was not found guilty of any crime.
The jury deliberated for seven days in an experiment that lasted about two months. It is one of the largest cases of its kind against a health care professional in the United States, tying the themes of medical and ethical treatment and the appropriate intake of opioids for end-of-life care.
Husel, who had his medical license suspended in January 2019, faces life in prison and has no chance of parole for 15 years if he is found guilty of even one murder. The jury is also allowed to consider a lesser charge of attempted murder, which carries a sentence of several years in prison.
Judges had to consider whether Husel, 46, was acting permissible under Ohio law when, according to prosecutors, he ordered 10 times the amount of fentanyl that expert witnesses gave is the norm in the non-surgical setting. Most of the ICU patients who received 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl were in their 70s and 80s and needed ventilator-supported breathing, although a few were in their late 30s.
The patients Husel treated between 2015 and 2018, were admitted to Mount Carmel Health System in the Columbus area with a variety of illnesses, including cancer, pneumonia and organ failure.
Franklin County prosecutors called more than 50 witnesses, including medical professionals, family members of the slain patients and former colleagues of Husel.
“Even if their deaths are guaranteed by the time the sun is about to rise in the morning, if you’re in such a hurry, you’re causing their deaths before the law,” Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor David Zeyen stated in the conclusion.
Husel’s defense team, led by senior attorney Jose Baez, argued that there is no maximum dose of fentanyl that would be illegal under state law and that his client was attempting to provide palliative care for the patient. people who are dying or near death.
“Why would this man risk his family, his career, his 17 years of trying to be a doctor, everything he’s worked for, to hasten someone’s death or kill them?” Baez said.
Husel, who did not testify, has not spoken publicly or given media interviews since the charges arose in a series of family lawsuits filed in early 2019. About 35 families have filed the lawsuit against him, the hospital and other employees; Some families have settled for a total of about $13.5 million.
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