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Mount Carmel doctor under investigation by cold-case homicide unit

Dr. William Husel is accused of ordering excessive and potentially fatal doses of fentanyl for patients at Mt. Carmel West Hospital (Courtesy: Mount Carmel Health)
Dr. William Husel is accused of ordering excessive and potentially fatal doses of fentanyl for patients at Mt. Carmel West Hospital (Courtesy: Mount Carmel Health)
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A cold-case homicide unit is investigating a case involving a Mt. Carmel doctor accused of ordering potentially fatal doses of pain medication to patients who were near death and receiving intensive care.

Mt. Carmel Health said in an email Tuesday “our employees are understandably shocked and disappointed by this doctor. That said, the professionals at Mount Carmel chose healthcare because they are passionate about healing the sick and saving lives. In system-wide meetings today, employees are showing pride in our overall mission, determination to do the best they can, and resilience in the face of tragedy.”

Law firm Leeseberg and Valentine filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday against Mount Carmel Health System and Dr. William Husel, as well as a pharmacist and nurse for their intentional administration of a lethal dose of Fentanyl to Janet Kavanaugh, 79 who died on December 11, 2017. Husel was unable to be reached at his home or by email.

The hospital is contacting at least 27 families of patients who have been possible victims of excessive and inappropriate dosages, according to the lawsuit. Gerry Leeseberg, attorney for Kavanaugh’s daughter, said many of the patients have been contacting is office over the past few days.

“We are just getting started with the investigations on their behalf. They are all shocked. We are all shocked, we are just going to take it slow and figure out what happened and why and who all was involved. Was it euthanasia? Certainly there were institutional controls that should have been in place that would have caught this kind of conduct and stopped it,” said Leeseberg.

Mt. Carmel’s Ed Lamb said in a pre-recorded statement, “We apologize for this tragedy and we are truly sorry for the additional grief this may have caused the families.We removed this doctor from patient care and terminated his employment."

Lamb said they reported the situation to authorities including law enforcement. Now they are taking measures so it doesn’t happen again, said Lamb. “We are working hard to learn all we can these cases. And we removed 20 hospital staff from providing further patient care while we gather more facts.”

Mt. Carmel said 14 nurses and 6 pharmacists have been placed on administrative leave during the fact-finding.

“Regardless of the reasons the actions were taken we take responsibility for the fact processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,” said Lamb.

“They are all in shock. I am in shock. This is what I do for a living. I can’t believe what I am hearing.Imagine if you are a patient’s family getting a call from the hospital, the people you entrusted your loved ones care to.They are raising questions about whether there was an intentional overdose of drugs leading to terminate your family member’s life. And hasten their death,” Leeseberg said.

“Where these actions have brought shock and hurt to our organization, this will not define us. Our thoughts and prayers are with the involved patients and their families and we ask for their forgiveness,” said Lamb.

Administrators were alerted to Husel’s alleged misdeeds by a whistleblower on staff after a zero harm initiative was implemented. “We have worked hard to create an environment where our employees can speak up and report. Thankfully, that process was used to report the doctor’s improper actions,” Mt. Carmel Health said in an email.

Mt. Carmel said they are making changes and setting up additional protocols. “We will learn from this and we will do better because our patients and their families deserve our very best,” Lamb said.

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