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Doctor charged with murder in painkiller overdose deaths

A critical care doctor who is already accused of ordering painkiller overdoses for dozens of Ohio hospital patients was charged with murder in 25 patient deaths, authorities said Wednesday.

A grand jury indicted now-fired Dr. William Husel on 25 counts of murder, Franklin County prosecutor Ron O’Brien said. Other medical staff who were interviewed were treated as witnesses, but O’Brien said he doesn’t anticipate anyone else will be charged.

Husel turned himself in Wednesday morning and was scheduled to be arraigned later in the day.

A lawyer for Husel has said he didn’t intend to kill patients. Messages seeking comment were left for that attorney.

The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System found Husel ordered potentially fatal drug doses for 29 patients over several years, including five who may have been given that pain medication when there still was a chance to improve their conditions with treatment. The hospital system said six more patients got doses that were excessive but likely didn’t cause their deaths.

Husel was fired in December after concerns arose. Mount Carmel acknowledged Husel wasn’t removed from patient care until four weeks after a concern about him was raised last fall, and that three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses he ordered.

The health system has said it should have expedited the process of investigating and removing Husel, who worked there for five years.

More than two dozen wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the doctor and the hospital system. Families alleged their loved ones were negligently or intentionally killed by painkiller overdoses ordered by Husel. Some also have questioned whether they were misled about the graveness of the patients’ conditions.

Mount Carmel has publicly apologized and already settled some of the civil cases for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hospital system officials has said all employees who were part of administering medication for affected patients have been removed from patient care as a precaution.

There were 48 nurses and pharmacists under review were reported to their respective boards. Thirty of those employees were put on leave, and 18 no longer work there, including some who left years ago, officials said.

Husel previously was a supervised resident at the Cleveland Clinic, where his work is under internal investigation. It said a preliminary review found his prescribing practices there were “consistent with appropriate care.”

The State Medical Board has suspended his license. Records show no prior disciplinary action against him, and the board won’t disclose whether it received any complaints that didn’t result in such action.

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