William Husel, former Ohio physician, was found not guilty of 14 counts of murder by an Ohio jury. Husel’s murder trial began in February of 2022, and he was acquitted on April 20, 2022. Attorneys from Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office called 53 witnesses in an attempt to prove Husel intended to hasten the death of his patients by administering deadly doses of fentanyl. Husel’s defense team argued that he acted within his discretion when caring for terminally ill patients.
Husel worked as the night intensive care unit (“ICU”) physician at Mount Carmel Hospital West (“Mount Carmel”) from 2013 to 2018. In October of 2018, Mount Carmel received the initial report about Husel’s patient care practices and alleged administration of excessive doses of fentanyl. Soon after, Mount Carmel launched an investigation into Husel’s conduct, and he was fired in December of 2018. After firing Husel, Mount Carmel alerted Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office and they began an independent investigation.
Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office alleged that Husel had been ordering deadly doses of fentanyl that ranged from 500 to 2000 micrograms. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, 2000 micrograms of fentanyl is considered potentially fatal. Ron O’Brien, former Franklin County Prosecutor, noted that Husel administered “doses of fentanyl at a level that they internally believed were inappropriate and not for a legitimate medical purpose.” O’Brien further declared that Husel’s administration of fentanyl was “designed to hasten the death of the patients that were being treated.” Consequently, Husel was charged with 25 counts of murder, 11 of which were dismissed prior to trial.
Husel’s attorneys called one witness to aid in their defense. Dr. Joel Zivot, who has expertise in the treatment of critically ill patients in ICU and lethal injection, offered his testimony pro bono. Dr. Zivot testified that the cause of death for each patient was their underlying health conditions and not the administration of fentanyl. He also testified that Husel’s use of fentanyl was to solely provide patients with relief of pain and anxiety as they faced death. In closing, Husel’s defense team informed the jury that the medical administration of fentanyl is not regulated and there is no maximum amount that can be administered to dying patients.
Husel made no statement after his acquittal. While several families settled civil claims against Husel and his former employer, he is still facing over a dozen other civil suits. Many in the healthcare industry contend that Husel should never have been prosecuted, and indeed view his prosecution as an extreme overreach of prosecutorial discretion.