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Former Mount Carmel Employees Defend William Husel In New Lawsuit

William Husel appears at a Franklin County Courthouse on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. He's charged with 25 counts of murder.
William Husel appears at a Franklin County Courthouse on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. He's charged with 25 counts of murder.

Ten former Mount Carmel employees are bringing a lawsuit against the hospital system, in which they back fired doctor William Husel. 

In a complaint filed Thursday morning, six former night shift nurses, their supervisor, a clinical educator, a pharmacist and an additional ICU nurse lay out their case against Mount Carmel Health System. 

They argue that neither Husel, nor the nurses and pharmacists who worked along side him, violated the hospital’s procedures. They accuse the hospital of wrongful termination and defamation. 

"This preposterous (but headline-grabbing) false narrative of an evil rogue doctor and his complicit staff ultimately destroyed the lives and livelihoods of dozens of dedicated nurses and pharmacists, and convinced the public, the Franklin County prosecutor, and the State Attorney General, that something terrible had been going on," the lawsuit reads. "But nothing could be further from the truth."

Husel stands accused of 25 counts of murder for ordering what the hospital called "excessive" doses of the pain medication fentanyl over the course of several years as a night shift doctor in the ICU. 

After firing Husel, the hospital placed several nurses and pharmacists on leave, rearranged its top leadership, and changed several hospital policies regarding medication and end of life care. 

The staffers argue the hospital "drastically changed its ICU policies from patient-centered policies that left appropriate discretion to its trusted physicians, to new hard-rules that endangered patients, and delayed urgent care."

The new policies, they say, are "contrary to accepted medical standards and created a situation where patients could, and unfortunately have, died in avoidable agony while their families watched." They argue that the hospital’s response arose out of "fear" and that the system sought to vilify Husel and his colleagues. 

"Because of Mount Carmel and Trinity’s public statements, many in the Columbus community have wondered why a doctor and dozens of nurses and pharmacists would intentionally murder patients after being removed from life support," the lawsuit continues. "The answer is simple: They did not."

Mount Carmel officials have stated several times that the painkiller levels Husel prescribed were "excessive and potentially fatal," even adding that some of Husel’s patients may have survived their conditions if they had not received the doses.

"This claim has no merit," a Mount Carmel spokeswoman told WOSU late Thursday night. "We thoroughly investigated these events and stand by our decisions. Mount Carmel’s focus continues to be on caring for our community."

Several Mount Carmel nurses and pharmacists are in jeopardy of losing their licenses for their involvement in the case. Administrative hearings are set for 25 nurses cited by the Ohio Board of Nursing. Those hearings are scheduled to begin in February, but for now, the nurses’ licenses remain active.

Dozens of wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Husel, Mount Carmel and other employees by the families of Husel's patients. 

A criminal trial is scheduled for Husel in June 2020.

Paige Pfleger is a former reporter for WOSU, Central Ohio's NPR station. Before joining the staff of WOSU, Paige worked in the newsrooms of NPR, Vox, Michigan Radio, WHYY and The Tennessean. She spent three years in Philadelphia covering health, science, and gender, and her work has appeared nationally in The Washington Post, Marketplace, Atlas Obscura and more.