Pharmacists among those fired, sued in fentanyl deaths case


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A hospital has seen 23 staff fired, a CEO step down and a doctor charged with murder following excessive and potentially fatal doses of fentanyl administered to at least 35 patients

Mount Carmel Health System in Ohio, US, has terminated the employment of 23 staff, including five physician, nursing and pharmacy management team members, following an investigation into the deaths of several patients.

The hospital’s investigation found that Mount Carmel West hospital healthcare practitioner Dr William Husel ordered excessive and potentially fatal doses of fentanyl for 35 patients who were under his care.

Mount Carmel identified six patients who received excessive doses of pain medication that went beyond providing comfort but were likely not the cause of their deaths.

“We have examined the individual role of every colleague who was a part of the medication administration for the affected patients,” said Mount Carmel president and CEO Ed Lamb, adding that this led to its decision to let the 23 staff go.

Eleven staff will have the opportunity to return to work after they complete additional training and education, while one staff member remains on administrative leave.

Civil cases have now been brought against Dr Husel for ordering the doses, as well as pharmacists Talon Schroyer, Joshua Jackson, David McKenny, Gregory Dresbach, Megan Ruffner and Nicole Pavlik, and a host of as yet unknown ‘John Doe’ pharmacists, who have been accused of reviewing and approving the doses.

Various nurses have been named in the cases for providing and administering the doses.

Dr Husel has also been indicted under 25 separate counts of murder by the Franklin County Grand Jury.

The penalty for murder is a prison sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment. Each count in the indictment alleges that Dr Husel “purposely caused the death” of each of the patients.

Prosecutor Ron O’Brien stated that fentanyl in various amounts between 500 and 2000 micrograms was ordered by Dr Husel and administered to patients that shortened their life and hastened or caused their death.

Dr Husel has reportedly pleaded not guilty and will face trial next year.

The first civil lawsuit was related to the case of Janet Kavanaugh (reported on here by AJP), although this case was dismissed by the plaintiff in April.

Several others have been filed since then, with some estates also suing Mount Carmel Health System for punitive damages.

The lawsuits allege that a “grossly inappropriate doses” of fentanyl were given to various patients, and that the named pharmacists reviewed and approved them knowing the ordered dosages were excessive and inappropriate, served no therapeutic purpose or function, and would only serve to cause or hasten the death of the patients.

They also allege that Mount Carmel’s electronic medical records system failed to flag and alert medical practitioners about the inappropriate dose.

After nearly three years in the role as Mount Carmel Health System president and CEO, Mr Lamb announced he will be resigning from his position effective from 25 July following the conclusion of the hospital’s review of patient cases.

The investigation had been ongoing since the hospital first received a formal report related to Dr Husel’s care in October 2018.

Mount Carmel had removed Dr Husel from providing patient care in November 2018 and terminated his employment two weeks later.

Prior to announcing his resignation, Mr Lamb had begun the process of organising settlements for families of the patients affected by Dr Husel’s actions.

The executive vice president and chief clinical officer for Mount Carmel Dr Richard Streck also announced his impending retirement in September.

“We are deeply sorry for the additional grief and frustration this has caused and are working to provide reasonable settlements with affected families,” said Mr Lamb, on behalf of Mount Carmel Health System, in a July statement.

The organisation said it “hopes that these settlements will bring some measure of closure and comfort to the families. We are committed to doing what is right and fair for all families affected by this tragedy.”

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