A stunning and heartbreaking story about the unnecessary deaths of 28 emergency room patients caused by lethal doses of opiates prescribed by a single emergency room doctor has left families with two questions: Was the doctor woefully incompetent or intentionally murdering his patients? And, just as shockingly, how did a hospital allow the doctor to prescribe and administer a deadly dose of fentanyl to so many patients?
According to NBC News, Dr. William Husel, an intensive care doctor, is responsible for the deaths of 34 patients between 2015 and 2018. According to a hospital investigation, 28 of these patients died after receiving a dose of fentanyl 10 times higher than normal. In some circumstances, pain medication was unnecessary and administered without the patient’s permission. Dr. Husel’s medical license was suspended permanently last week without a hearing, a rare action depicting the gravity of his barbarous actions. Before the Ohio Medical Board’s action, the attorney general for the state called Dr. Husel “a serial killer on the loose with a medical license and access to fentanyl.” A criminal investigation is currently underway, but no homicide charges have been filed against the deadly doctor.
Realizing the high number of deaths caused by “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” opiates by the doctor, families are also demanding answers from Mount Carmel West hospital. According to the news article, Mount Carmel is one of the largest hospitals in the state and should have significant safeguards against prescribing and administering deadly doses of medication. According to the hospital procedures, any excessive dosage should have been caught by an “elaborate system of checks and balances” which require the attending physician, the pharmacist responsible for filling the medication, and the doctor or nurse responsible for administering the medication to review and sign off on the medication. Because the hospital utilizes an electronic prescribing system, high doses of opiates are automatically flagged and require an additional signature at each step of the process.
Medical experts speaking to NBC News said the obvious breakdown of Mount Carmel’s elaborate “checks and balances” system meant to prevent medical errors could be explained by the fast-paced nature of intensive care units or by a doctor who could effectively charm or intimidate his coworkers into complying with his order.
While medical errors are common, the frequency and gravity of deadly overdoses by a single doctor defies an easy explanation. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Mount Carmel’s shocking incompetence does not end there – the Ohio hospital received information about Dr. Husel’s deadly prescribing habits on October 25 but did not remove him from patient care until November 21 and ultimately fired on December 5. After an explosion of media attention, the hospital has begun a far-reaching investigation into the doctor’s prescribing habits and admits that more unnecessary deaths are likely to surface. Further, Carmel West has announced the firing of nurses and physicians every few days as the investigation unwinds the deadly doctor’s enablers.
So far, a total of twenty hospital staffers – mostly pharmacists and nurses – have lost their job. The number of victims, lawsuits, firings, and criminal charges will undoubtedly grow in the following weeks and months.
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