An Ohio doctor was found Wednesday not guilty on 14 counts of murder. The doctor was accused of “hastening the deaths of 14 critically ill patients” by overprescribing fentanyl. The jury had to answer the question of whether William Husel’s actions violated Ohio law when he allegedly prescribed 10 times the amount of fentanyl that is used in nonsurgical settings.
Husel was employed by Mount Carmel Health System in their Columbus hospital and accused of murdering 14 patients who were in the intensive care unit from 2015 to 2018. During the trial, the prosecution called more than 50 witnesses to testify. The witness included medical experts, family members of the patients who died, and doctors and nurses employed by Mount Carmel Hospital West.
The not-guilty verdict comes after over a week of jury deliberation because the jury was “at an impasse and could not reach a unanimous verdict.”
During the trial, Jose Baez, the defense attorney, argued that the prosecutors failed to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Husel intended to kill the patients and that the dosage of the fentanyl contributed to the patients’ deaths.
In closing arguments, David Zeyen, the prosecutor asserted that:
If you hasten a person’s death, even if their death is as sure as the sun is going to rise in the morning, if you hasten that along, you have caused their death under the eyes of the law.
The trial, which lasted about two months, began in February. Husel was looking at life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years if found guilty of one count of murder. The jury could also have considered attempted murder, which holds a lighter sentence.
This trial is almost three years after Husel was indicted on 25 counts of murder for overprescribing fentanyl back in 2019. During that case, a six-month-long investigation was done beginning in December 2018. The prosecutor for that case stated that Husel was “administering doses of fentanyl at a level that they internally believed were inappropriate and not for a legitimate medical purpose.”
The DEA considers 2 milligrams of fentanyl to be a potentially lethal dose.
Husel’s former colleagues state that he was a hardworking and wonderful doctor, who tried to save lives. His former colleagues also stated that he was helpful to all in the ICU unit.
Husel’s medical license was suspended in January 2019 and is still suspended as reported by CNN.