Mount Carmel Hospital’s Fentanyl Scandal: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Mount Carmel Hospital photos

The CEO of Mount Carmel West hospital in Columbus, Ohio admitted that a patient who died there in December of 2017 was purposely given a fatal dose of fentanyl. And, he further admits that 26 other patients were similarly prescribed excessive or lethal doses of the powerful opioid.

In the wake of the admission, to date, there have been three lawsuits filed against the hospital, part of the Trinity Health System, by family members of patients who died following those excessive doses of fentanyl prescribed by Dr. William S. Husel. In at least one case, registered nurse Tyler Rudman and pharmacist Talon Schroyer are also named in the lawsuits, in addition to the hospital and Husel, for wrongful death and neglect.

Now, the state of Ohio has weighed in. It’s reported that the Ohio Department of Health has begun an investigation “on behalf of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Husel was fired and 20 other hospital employees have been placed on paid leave.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Hospital CEO Ed Lamb Admits Husel Gave 27 Patients ‘Near Death’ Fatal Doses of Fentanyl Over 5 Years in the Intensive Care Department

Mount Carmel West hospital CEO Ed Lamb

Ed Lamb, president, and CEO at Mount Carmel West hospital faced the camera and admitted in a public statement that more than two dozen dying patients were purposely given deadly doses of the world’s most powerful pain medication without their or their families’ consent.

Lamb said that after an “internal investigation” over the course of his five years at the hospital, Husel “ordered significantly excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for at least 27 patients who were near death.”

Lamb does not explain how Husel, pharmacist and nurses were able to order, approve and administer those medications without permission.

The investigation though appears to have come only after it admitted in December of 2017 that Husel gave a fatal dose of fentanyl to a dying woman. Now, more than 13 months after that deadly dose was discovered, the hospital admits it was just one of at least 27 cases on Husel’s watch.

2. A Year After Janet Kavanaugh Died, Mount Carmel Told Her Family She was Given a Lethal Dose of Fentanyl & Admitted She Wasn’t the Only Patient to Have Been Purposely Overdosed

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According to the court documents filed by the estate of Janet Kavanaugh, on Dec. 11, 2017, Husel ordered 1000 micrograms of fentanyl be administered to Kavanaugh. According to the Oxford Treatment data sheet, the “lethal dose for fentanyl is generally stated to be 2 milligrams … the lethal dose of fentanyl is extremely small compared” to many other opiate drugs. The dose she was given is equal to 1 milligram. Oxford says that body weight, age, and previous use of opioids are factored into the deadly dose equation: “The lethal dose for a small child or a 100-pound woman will be significantly smaller than the lethal dose for a 300-pound man.” Fentanyl is “50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.”

Court documents state that Kavanaugh’s dose ordered by Husel, approved by the pharmacist and administered by the nurse through an IV, as ordered by the doctor. The fatal dose was administered at 5:45 a.m. Kavanaugh was dead at 6:03.

The hospital informed the family a year later that she’d been given a deadly dose.

The lawsuit accuses the hospital, Husel, Schroyer and Rudman of battery, medical negligence, negligence, wrongful death and in particular, Mount Carmel West of negligence in its supervision of Husel.

In the lawsuit, a Massachusetts doctor certified in emergency medicine and toxicology filed an affidavit saying the amount of fentanyl administered to Kavanaugh was “inappropriate and excessive.”

3. The Hospital Placed 20 Employees on Paid Administrative Leave After Its Internal Investigation. Some Allege the Hospital Was Aware of Husel’s Actions Months Ago

Hospital CEO Lamb qualified his video statement uploaded to YouTube by saying at the outset that the families of the 27 patients had requested all saving measures be stopped. He does not say any family members asked to have their loved ones’ lives ended.

“We apologize for this tragedy,” Lamb said. “And we’re truly sorry for the additional grief this may have caused the families.”

Husel was fired and law enforcement was contacted, Lamb said adding 20 other staffers were “removed from providing” care for patients. Those employees have not all been named nor their respective roles in patient care identified save to say they’re mostly nurses and pharmacy staff. Lamb says that the hospital works with families to help dying patients: “We believe in helping patients near death die peacefully,” he said.

“…the actions instigated by (Husel) were unacceptable …” Lamb said Husel’s actions have “brought shock and hurt to our organization…”

The lawyer for two of the family’s suing says “he has heard accounts that the hospital may have been aware of Husel’s behavior before October 2018, when they say they were first alerted.”

WOSU reported that hospital administrators were given a tip about Husel’s actions in late October of 2018 and that while they were “investigating that case, another incident occurred on November 19, prompting the hospital to take action.”

It was reported that the hospital alerted Franklin County Ohio Prosecuting Attorney Ron O’Brien. It’s not clear what if any action has been taken by O’Brien.

The hospital published its findings, it called “The Facts About What Happened at Mount Carmel.” That report can be read here.

4. David Austin’s Wife Bonnie Died After Husel Ordered She be Given Fentanyl. Christine Allison’s Husband Troy Allision, Just 44, Died in Husel’s Care

David and Bonnie Austin

YouTube screenshot/Columbus DispatchDavid and Bonnie Austin

“David Austin says he was overcome with grief after the death of his wife, Bonnie, at Mount Carmel West. Bonnie Austin, 64, died at the Columbus hospital after Dr. William Husel ordered excessive doses of fentanyl …” the Columbus Dispatch described on its YouTube video of an interview with David Austin.

“We were watching TV,” Austin told the Dispatch reporter, “she was having trouble breathing.” He called 911. Paramedics performed CPR on Austin who had suffered a heart attack. At the hospital, at around 7:30 p.m., she was placed on life support and moved to the ICU when Husel said she was brain-dead and “no machine would bring her back.” He called Husel a “joker.”

At 11:15 p.m., the pharmacist approved the doctor’s order: fentanyl and sedative Versed. Thirteen minutes later, the fatal dosage ordered by Husel was approved and had been given to Bonnie Austin, unbeknownst to the family, David Austin says. So unaware of what had occurred, at around 11:30 the family decided to stop life-saving measures based on the fact that Husel had told them earlier that she was brain-dead.

Austin told the paper that Husel asked if they should “pull the plug.” Austin said he and his wife agreed if there’s no chance of coming back” no life-saving measures should be attempted. But he said the doctor chose to give her a medication that gave her no chance of “coming back.”

“I didn’t know he did it. I didn’t know he gave her any drugs. I had no idea.”

At 11:53 p.m. Bonnie Austin was dead.

Christine Allison, wife of Troy Allison, 44, said her husband was under Husel’s care adding that her husband was only in the hospital for a few hours before he died.

5. Husel Who Graduated From the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Has Been Practicing for 11 Years & Has Not Faced State Medical Board Action

According to the Mount Carmel West physicians guide, Husel graduated from Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, did his internship and residency at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital and his fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Hospital in critical care. The Mount Carmel West bio sheets for its physicians shows that Husel is not board-certified.

It’s reported the Cleveland Clinic said it’s found no inappropriate prescribing history while he worked there from 2008 until 2013.

Husel is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, a D.O., not an M.D., though the two are the same in terms of certification to practice, though training and philosophy may differ. The American Osteopathic Association says “DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.”

Husel is a critical care or intensivists specialist with more than a decade of experience.

According to state records, Husel still has his license and has faced no board actions.

A Facebook page for Husel, which Heavy cannot confirm is his, has two posts; one from 2000 and the second from just hours after the news broke; an image of a pier.

An attorney for one of the victim’s said the case does not appear to be one of assisted suicide given one of the victim’s was age 44.