An Ohio patient died minutes after she was given a "grossly excessive" dose of pain medication ordered by a doctor who was removed from patient care the following day and is now under investigation in connection with previous deaths, the patient's family and their lawyers said Wednesday.
The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System removed intensive care doctor William Husel from patient care Nov. 21, the day after 82-year-old Melissa Penix died. He was fired two weeks later.
In a statement, her family's lawyers said Penix received a lethal fentanyl dose of 2,000 micrograms, far more than is typically used in treatment. They said they plan to file a lawsuit Thursday against Husel, Mount Carmel, the nurse who administered the dose, and the pharmacist who approved it.
It would be at least the 13th wrongful-death lawsuit questioning whether Mount Carmel staff ignored safeguards and wrongly used to drugs to hasten patients' deaths intentionally or possibly illegally , all without the families' knowledge.
Mount Carmel found that Husel ordered potentially fatal doses for at least 28 patients over several years and excessive, but not likely fatal, doses for six others. The hospital system fired him, publicly apologized and put 23 employees on leave pending investigation, including pharmacists, nurses and managers.
Lawyers for Husel, 43, have declined to comment. The State Medical Board suspended his license , but no criminal charges have been announced as local authorities investigate.
Mount Carmel 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 an opportunity for their conditions to improve with treatment.
With Penix, who had complained of stomach pain and been treated for pneumonia, the family had agreed to remove care after Husel told them she had a stomach infection and was brain-dead, the lawyers' statement said.
Mount Carmel has acknowledged that Husel wasn't removed from patient care until weeks after concern was first raised about him on Oct. 25. The health system said three patients died during those weeks after getting excessive doses ordered by Husel.
It said last month that it should have sped up its investigation and considered his immediate removal after the first report.
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