Court won’t halt lawsuits against doctor in murder case
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio hospital doctor who pleaded not guilty to murder in 25 patients’ deaths was unsuccessful in his latest bid to pause more than a dozen related lawsuits while the criminal case is pending.
A state appeals court dismissed the appeals from William Husel and his former employer, the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System, for procedural reasons in the past two weeks.
A review by Mount Carmel found the intensive care doctor ordered excessive painkillers for about three dozen patients who died over several years. He was fired in December 2018.
His current lawyers shy away from publicly discussing Husel’s motivations, but his previous attorney in the criminal case said the doctor was providing comfort care to dying patients, not trying to kill them.
Husel’s lawyer in the civil cases argued that allowing those to proceed during the criminal case would hurt the doctor’s ability to defend himself because he would invoke his constitutional rights against self-incrimination. That, in turn, would hinder Mount Carmel’s ability to defend itself, the hospital system contended.
A Franklin County judge declined to pause the lawsuits, and the state court didn’t get into each side’s arguments in considering the subsequent appeals. It merely concluded the judge’s decision wasn’t a final one that could be appealed.
Now the lawyers involved are beginning the monthslong process of collecting documentation — such as hospital policies and emails — and arranging to take sworn statements from scores of people, such as nurses and pharmacists who administered and approved medications, attorney David Shroyer, who represents some of the families, said Thursday.
“Our clients, every single one of them, wants to know: How did this happen?” he said.
Shroyer said he doesn’t anticipate Husel would give a sworn statement until after the criminal case.
Messages seeking comment on the dismissal of the appeals were left for the hospital system and Husel’s lawyer.
Though others administered the drugs and could face professional disciplinary action, no one but Husel is being prosecuted. He was charged only in cases involving 500 to 2000 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl — amounts so large that prosecutors said they point to his intent.
Mount Carmel faced more than 30 related lawsuits and has agreed to more than $13 million in related settlements so far.