COLUMBUS, Ohio – Defending an Ohio doctor charged with murder in the deaths of 25 patients will involve educating jurors about medical complexities and hard-to-pronounce pharmaceuticals, but it's really “a very simple case" about hospital employees caring for people who were on life support and already facing imminent death, one of his lawyers said Friday.
Prosecutors allege William Husel ordered the powerful painkiller fentanyl for those patients in doses so large that it points to an intent to prematurely end their lives.
Though other colleagues in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System administered or approved the drugs, only the fired doctor is being prosecuted.
Mount Carmel fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers after an internal review and said dozens have been reported to their professional boards for potential disciplinary action.
Husel, 44, pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial this June.
The defense team is working to meet that date and doesn't intend to prolong the case, attorney Jose Baez said after a hearing Friday in Franklin County court to discuss jury selection, record-sharing and other pretrial issues.
“This is an innocent man who is being charged for multiple reasons, which you'll find out at trial,” Baez said. "He doesn't deserve to be in this position, nor did all of those other health care professionals deserve what's happened in their lives. To receive some type of scarlet letter in this community after being caring and giving and dedicating your life to helping others is just nothing short of absurd.”
Baez, based in Florida, is known for successfully defending high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony and Aaron Hernandez.
Mount Carmel fired Husel in December 2018. Its internal review concluded he had ordered potentially fatal doses for 29 patients who died over several years, including five who it said might have received the drugs when there still was a chance of improving their conditions with treatment.
He was charged only in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of fentanyl.
The judge and lawyers in the case say they expect the trial to last about six weeks.
They're making plans to summon more than 700 people as potential jurors. Excused absences, other issues and lawyer questioning would be used whittle the group down to the final panel that will hear the case.