Ohio doc's license suspended amid review of hospital deaths

Published: Jan. 25, 2019 at 9:16 PM EST
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Ohio's medical board on Friday suspended the license of a doctor accused of ordering excessive and possibly fatal pain medicine for dozens of hospital patients without their families' knowledge.

William Husel invoked his right against self-incrimination when he met with board representatives this week and was questioned, including when he was asked whether he purposefully ordered excessive doses to end patients' lives, according to the board's notification letter.

Husel was fired by the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System last month, but no charges have been announced. His lawyers haven't commented.

The board said there is clear evidence that Husel violated minimum standards of care and that his continued practice of medicine would present "a danger of immediate and serious harm."

Mount Carmel has said that at least 28 patients over the past few years received doses that were potentially fatal, and that six got doses that were larger than necessary to provide comfort "but were likely not the cause of their deaths."

Mount Carmel initially said affected patients were near death, but now says it's investigating whether patients got possibly lethal doses when there still might have been opportunity to improve their conditions with treatment.

At least six families have sued , alleging their loved ones were negligently or intentionally killed. Some also have questioned whether they were misled by hospital employees about the graveness of the patients' conditions.

The hospital previously apologized and said it put six pharmacists and 14 nurses on paid leave pending further investigation. It has said it anticipates more affected patients might be discovered as the review proceeds.

The affected patients publicly identified by relatives so far include both men and women. They received care for various ailments and ranged in age from 39 to 83.

The youngest of those is James "Nick" Timmons, who died Oct. 24.

Timmons' brother, Lynn Marshall, said Friday the medical misconduct allegations make it more difficult to trust hospital care providers who are supposed to save lives. He's pursuing a possible lawsuit.

One of his attorneys, Craig Tuttle, said that Timmons didn't have any recorded sign of the powerful painkiller fentanyl in his system when he was first hospitalized after a suspected cocaine overdose, but that he died of intoxication from both drugs.

Timmons died a day before the first concern about Husel was raised, according to Mount Carmel's timeline.

The hospital system acknowledged Husel wasn't removed from patient care until four weeks after that. Three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses ordered by Husel, Mount Carmel said.

The system said this week that it should have expedited the process of investigating and removing him.

Besides local authorities, the Ohio Department of Health is investigating the situation on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Husel, who lives near suburban Dublin, had worked for Mount Carmel for five years.

He has the option to request a hearing before the medical board decides on permanent action, which it said could range from probation to revoking his license. Records show no prior disciplinary action against Husel by the state board.

He previously was a supervised resident at the Cleveland Clinic, where his work is under internal review. The medical center said its preliminary review found his prescribing practices were "consistent with appropriate care."