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Attorney: Mt. Carmel patient given paralytic drugs before fatal dose of fentanyl

Melissa Penix died November 20, 2018, after attorneys say she was given a 2,000 microgram dose of fentanyl (Courtesy: Penix family){p}{/p}
Melissa Penix died November 20, 2018, after attorneys say she was given a 2,000 microgram dose of fentanyl (Courtesy: Penix family)

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Attorneys for the family of a Mount Carmel patient say hospital records show Melissa Penix was given paralytic drugs before the family agreed to a DNR order.

Penix, 82, was reportedly prescribed two different drugs, Nimbex and Vecuronium, on the night of November 20, 2018. Lawyers say a short time later, Dr. Husel had a conversation with the family about her diagnosis and withdrawing life support. The drugs would have rendered Penix incapable of a neurologic response, lawyers said in a statement, and may have have been done to create the appearance she was comatose and unresponsive.

ABC6/FOX28 wanted to know why someone would use these drugs or in what situation, so ABC6/FOX28 interview with Dr. Allen Nichol again.

He said he has a bachelors and doctorate in pharmacy, and has worked in the field for twenty years and has testified as an expert witness.

Dr. Nichol said it will paralyze the muscles that help you breathe.

"They are to be used as adjunct meaning adjunct to general anesthesia to facilitate tracheal intubation," said Dr. Nicho Pharm.D., "which means if you are going to put a trach (tube) in to keep the patient breathing, because they can't do it on their own. You can't administer this medication unless that trach (tube) is in place."

While Dr. Nichol can't say exactly what may have happened or why, he did share his expertise.

"The patients were not receiving surgery," he said, "so I am not sure why they would have done that other than comfort care and that, but you can't say, they would have to warned ahead of time, if you do this you can't un-intubate the patient because that will for certain have a negative outcome."

Husel's legal team has declined to comment thus far.

Documents given to ABC6/FOX28 alongside the Plan of Correction for Mount Carmel West submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services detailed care for a patient that appears to be Penix, but did not show records of paralytic drugs being administered. ABC6/FOX28 asked about that and is waiting for further information.

Earlier reporting

A new wrongful death lawsuit against Mount Carmel Hospital was filed Thursday, February 7th, on behalf of the family of Melissa Penix, a woman named as the last patient treated by a former doctor before he was fired.

The 82-year old died on November 20, 2018 after receiving a 2,000 microgram dose of Fentanyl, according to attorneys. That is about 20 times what is considered to be an appropriate amount. The dosage was reportedly ordered by Dr. William Husel, approved by pharmacist Gregory White, and administered by nurse Wesley Black.

Multiple families have filed lawsuits against Husel, the hospital, and other staff members.

When speaking with Mount Carmel administrators on January 14, 2019, Melissa’s husband says he was told “your wife’s death prompted our investigation," the family's attorneys said. Mount Carmel has indicated it received formal reports about Dr. Husel’s care on at least two prior occasions. It does not appear any action was taken to prevent the 2,000 mcg lethal dose of Fentanyl from being provided to Penix.

“We were all shocked at 1000 micrograms. But to get these records yesterday and see it was 2000 micrograms is just unfathomable,” said Craig Tuttle, attorney for Penix's family.

The family of Penix said their Mee-Maw - as she was known - was “a mother to all who graced her home. She was a cookie-giving, color-right-along with you great Grandma.” The family said her legacy will live on.

Records show Penix was admitted to the ICU with pneumonia and put on a ventilator. Her family said they were later told her organs were shutting down and she was brain dead.

“If someone was brain dead, the concern about them feeling pain and being uncomfortable doesn’t exist. So something is not adding up here in each of these cases that have a very similar story,” Tuttle said.“These conversations all happened during the night shift, when you don’t have specialists around such as neurologists, pulmonologists, folks who would be involved in discussion with a a family about these multi organ failures, about brain death.”

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“I almost think it would be easier for people to accept if this were a one off situation that got caught and stopped, and they were part of that process. The only family that can say that now is the Pentix family. We are the ones who stopped that. Unfortunately it was 34 people too late,” Tuttle said.

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