COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Lawsuits continued to pile up against Mount Carmel and Dr. William Husel over allegations that several patients were given potentially deadly doses of pain meds.
The family of Peggy Francies filed a lawsuit on March 12, alleging she was the second of three patients who were given inappropriate and lethal doses of Fentanyl within a two and a half hour period on Oct. 9, 2017. Francies, 73, died shortly after receiving a 200 microgram dose for ventilator withdrawal, which attorneys say is a violation of hospital policy.
Francies was taken to Mount Carmel from Doctor's Hospital on October 8, 2017 for treatment of sepsis due to renal failure. Attorneys say Francies was admitted to the ICU and less than 24 hours later, it was recommended to her husband that she be changed to DNR status and care be withdrawn. She is survived by her husband John Francies.
On March 19, 2019, attorney's for Ryan Hayes filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mount Carmel and Dr. Husel. Hayes passed away on April 4, 2017.
On Feb, 26, 2019, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of 83-year-old Thelma Kyer.
On Feb. 6, 2019, a lawsuit was prepared on behalf of the family of 65-year-old Melissa Penix. The lawsuit alleged Mount Carmel, Husel, Dr. Gregory White, PH and Wesley Black, RN were responsible for Penix's death.
Her family says she died after getting 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl on Nov. 20, 2018. After her death, they claim Husel was escorted out of the hospital.
An attorney who is preparing to file a lawsuit, identified Larry Brigner, 70, on Feb. 5. Bringer who was a Vietnam veteran, and had been battling cancer died on Dec. 10.
Three more patients were identified Feb. 1, with lawyers saying they were preparing lawsuits on their behalf.
Timothy Fitzpatrick and Beverlee Schirtzinger both died from an overdose of Fentanyl on Oct. 9, 2017, according to law firm Leeseberg & Valentine. Fitzpatrick, 55, was taken to Mount Carmel West several days earlier and diagnosed with pleural effusions, which is often known as "water on the lungs". When his condition deteriorated, lawyers say his family was encouraged to issue a DNR and withdraw further care. That's when Dr. Husel reportedly ordered a 500 microgram dose of Fentanyl. Lawyers say they are also naming nurse Derek Dreyer and pharmacist Megan Ruffner in the lawsuit.
Later that same night, lawyers say Husel, Dreyer, and Ruffner also provided a lethal dose to Beverly Scherzinger, another patient in the ICU. She was reportedly given a 500 microgram dose of Fentanyl through her IV, along with 4 mg of Versed. She died just a week shy of her 64th birthday, and less than three hours after Fitzpatrick.
Another law firm says they are currently working on four cases they say are connected to the Mt. Carmel investigation. They identified Emma Bogan as one of the patients, saying she was given a lethal dose of at least 800 micrograms of fentanyl. Bogan, 75, was in a rehab center when she was taken to Mt. Carmel West on February 11, 2015, due to complications. Attorneys say she was pronounced dead less than an hour and a half later, before the family even arrived at the hospital. Her attorney announced they have filed a wrongful death suit on Feb. 7.
On Jan. 31, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Rebecca Ann Walls. She passed away at age 75 on Nov. 19, 2018. The lawsuit was filed by Attorney Timothy Mahler of Rourke and Blumenthal firm in the Brewery District. Walls' family declined to comment.
Another family says within hours of their mother going to the emergency room, she was dead from a lethal dose of fentanyl. The family of Jeremia "Sue" Hodge filed a wrongful death lawsuit on January 28th against Mount Carmel Hospital, Dr. Husel, and several medical officials known only at this point as "John Doe". It was the seventh lawsuit filed in the investigation so far.
Hodge, 57, died on April 1, 2018 after she was taken to the emergency room due to shortness of breath. Her five surviving sons say after initial tests in the ER at Mount Carmel West, she was admitted to the ICU and came under the care of Dr. Husel. The family says he informed them her organs were shutting down and they needed to make a decision about whether to withdraw life support. Husel is accused of ordering an excessive dose of fentanyl, believed to be more than 500 micrograms, shortly after that.
The family says they had no reason to believe there was anything suspect about their mother's death until hospital officials contacted them in December 2018 to let them know there was an internal investigation into Dr. Husel and patients getting potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.
The family of Norma Welch also filed a wrongful death lawsuit on January 28th.
Welch, 85, died on May 4, 2015 after receiving a 400 microgram dosage of fentanyl, followed by a 500 microgram dosage of fentanyl just 13 minutes later. The lawsuit says the doses were ordered by Dr. Husel, approved by pharmacist Nathan Kochheiser, and administered by nurse Amelia Powers.
Her family says she was taken to the hospital on April 30, 2015 and was found to have pneumonia. By May 3 Welch's condition had worsened due to presumed sepsis. With a DNR in place, lawyers say her son and grandson were traveling to the hospital to see her one last time. Before they arrived, the doses of fentanyl were ordered and given, and she died soon after.
An additional two lawsuits were filed January 25th, on behalf of the families of James Allen and Joanne Bellisari. Shortly after that, the Ohio Department of Medicaid announced they've suspended the provider agreement with Dr. Husel. As a result of that suspension, Dr. Husel is prohibited by law from serving individuals that rely on Medicaid.
The latest wrongful death lawsuits claim Allen and Bellisaris were given lethal doses of fentanyl while they were under Dr. Husel's care.
Bellisari was 69 years old when she was admitted to Mount Carmel West in April, 2015, to be treated for complications from numerous chronic medical conditions. Her family decided to withdraw care, and they say that's when she was given the lethal dose of fentanyl. She died eight minutes later.
James George Allen was just 20 minutes shy of his 81st birthday when he died in the Mount Carmel West intensive care unit on on May 28th, 2018. His family says he died less than half an hour after receiving a large dose of fentanyl ordered by Dr. Husel, and they are preparing a lawsuit.
The family released a statement saying "Dealing with Jim's death when it happened was a difficult process for our family. Having to live through that death again, in this context is all the more painful. Our family seeks answers to the difficult questions everyone is asking, and we hope to find out what really happened through this process."
Allen is the seventh patient identified as potentially getting a lethal dose of fentanyl.
The attorney for the Allen and Bellisari lawsuits says he expects criminal charges in the case.
Jan Thomas was identified as one of the patients attorneys allege was killed by a dose of Fentanyl on March, 2015. The firm Colley, Shroyer & Abraham Co., said they have been retained by Thomas's family. A lawsuit was filed Tuesday, Jan. 22 on behalf of her family.
Thomas was rushed to the hospital on March 1, 2015 after she was found unresponsive at home. According to family lawyers, Husel told the family she was on life support and it could be withdrawn. It's believed Husel then ordered an 800 microgram dose of fentanyl for Thomas. She died 31 minutes after it was administered.
The family says they were led to believe she would die of natural causes if removed from life support and, according to the lawsuit, Husel never told them he intended to hasten her death.
Another wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the Allison family Thursday, Jan. 17. The family says Husel was responsible for the death of 44-year-old Troy Allison this past July. The lawsuit alleges Husel prescribed a deadly amount of morphine to Allison. It also argued that the nurse who administered the drug and the pharmacist should have known better.
The Leeseberg & Valentine law firm say they currently represent 12 of the 27 families involved in wrongful death lawsuits, but did not name the other clients because they have not publicly filed yet, but have agreed to look over their cases.
"Nobody told me anything; he was in the hospital for three hours with organ failure," Christine Allison said Thursday afternoon.
Troy and Christine Allison were married 11 years, were together for 18 years, and have two children together.
Attorneys say Troy Allison, died July 15, 2018 and records show he died from 1,000 micrograms of fentanyl, but his wife was told he was given morphine.
"Everything just seemed off. I just couldn't believe what was happening...it was just weird," Allison said. "I was talking to him and said I'll see you there in a minute and the next time I see him, he's dead."
Attorneys say the family was encouraged to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order shortly after Allison arrived at the hospital. "They were given the information that he was going to be brain dead even if resuscitated...we're not seeing the proper evidence to support that conclusion," Attorney Craig Tuttle said.
Christine Allison says the hospital called her after Christmas to tell her police were investigating and the doctor and other staff involved in her husband's case were fired. Mount Carmel Health Systems says they weren't aware of all the patient deaths until October of 2018, and they began contacting the families after finishing an internal investigation.
"He actually seemed very kind and very compassionate, and, um, I trusted him," Allison said. "My husband did not have a terminal illness."
In an earlier lawsuit, David Austin said Husel was responsible for the death of his wife, Bonnie. Austin's attorney said she was given a deadly dose of fentanyl this past September.
“Something’s not right. This guy has got to be crazy. What did he do to my wife?! This guy has to be crazy!" said Austin. "I gotta find out what the heck's going on. This can't happen again.”
Austin was sobbing as he shared his story.
Mount Carmel responded to the lawsuits by saying in a video that the hospital has been doing everything it can to understand how this happened. The hospital said it will take measures to prevent similar instances from happening.
"The actions instigated by this doctor were unacceptable and inconsistent with the values and practices of Mount Carmel. Regardless of the reasons the actions were taken we take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening," said Mount Carmel President and CEO Ed Lamb. Lamb said the internal investigation was completed and police have been notified of the findings.
Mount Carmel said in their video statement about the case that families had told the hospital to "stop all life-saving measures." Lawyers say that may have happened in other cases, but their clients wanted doctors to keep fighting to save their loved ones.
"Even assuming it was a legitimate recommendation to put in place a DNR or withdraw life support or simply put in place comfort measures that in no way shape or form is a spring board to somebody coming in with a 1,000 microgram of fentanyl and terminating their life," Attorney Gerry Leeseberg said.
Husel was a doctor with Mount Carmel for five years. The hospital said he ordered "excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain meds" for at least 27 patients who were near death. Twenty other staff members, including nurses who administered the medication, and pharmacists have been "removed" from the hospital too.
Attorneys with Leeseberg & Valentine say the cases wouldn't turn into a class action lawsuit, because it deals with wrongful deaths and everybody's claims are different.
ABC6/FOX28 reached out to the involved parties.
An attorney for Dr. Husel said via email: "Neither Dr. Husel nor his counsel have any comment."
A Mt. Carmel Health spokesperson did respond via email with this statement:
"We are aware of at least 27 cases and, based on what this doctor did to these near-death patients, we understand that some of these families may be considering legal action. We’ve apologized to these families, we’ve apologized publicly, and we’re continuing to cooperate with law enforcement and other authorities. We’re also working to build additional safeguards so that a tragedy like this never happens again."
ABC 6/FOX 28 will continue to follow this story.