Doc, hospital face 8 wrongful death suits over drug dosages

Mount Carmel West
Posted at 8:08 AM, Jan 29, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A woman died at an Ohio hospital minutes after receiving not one but two excessive doses of potentially lethal medication ordered by a doctor under investigation in connection with dozens of deaths, the woman's family alleged Monday.

Their lawsuit over the May 2015 death of 85-year-old Norma Welch was one of two filed Monday against the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System and Dr. William Husel, the families' attorneys said.

The other case, over the April 1 death of 57-year-old Columbus resident Jeremia "Sue" Hodge, means there are now eight wrongful-death lawsuits alleging that Mount Carmel patients were negligently or intentionally given overdoses and that hospital safeguards failed or were ignored.

Mount Carmel announced earlier this month that the now-fired critical care doctor ordered excessive doses for at least 34 patients over several years. That has raised questions about whether the drugs approved and administered by pharmacists and nurses were wrongly used to hasten deaths intentionally or possibly illegally without the patients' families knowing.

Mount Carmel notified authorities, publicly apologized and put six pharmacists and 14 nurses on paid leave pending further investigation.

Hodge's sons and their lawyer, David Shroyer, said they're hoping the case prompts changes in hospital protocols and safeguards to prevent a similar experience for other patients and families.

"We can't bring our mom back," Robert Hodge said, "but we don't want no one else to lose theirs."

The State Medical Board has suspended Husel's license, but no criminal charges have been announced. Records show the board hasn't previously disciplined Husel.

He invoked his right against self-incrimination when he was questioned for the board, including when asked if he purposefully ordered excessive doses to end patients' lives, according to the board's notification letter. His lawyers haven't commented.

The hospital said at least 28 patients received doses that were potentially fatal, and six received doses that were larger than necessary to provide comfort but not likely fatal.

The health system said it is reviewing records of all patients who died in the hospital and were treated by Husel, who had worked for Mount Carmel for five years. It said it anticipates more affected patients might be discovered.

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

The affected patients publicly identified by relatives so far include men and women who had various ailments and ranged in age from 39 to 85.

Mount Carmel has said a concern about Husel was raised last fall, but he wasn't removed from patient care until weeks later. Three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses ordered by Husel, Mount Carmel said.

Local authorities are investigating, as is the Ohio Department of Health.