In most major surgeries, a doctor will prescribe, at most, 20 micrograms of fentanyl, a powerful opioid pain killer. At most, as an “adjunct to general anesthesia,” 20-50 micrograms are used.
Doctor William Husel of Columbus was administering, in some cases, 1,000 micrograms. After prescribing these lethal doses to at least 27 patients, justice may finally be coming for him.
The Ohio Department of Department of Health confirmed Friday that it was launching an investigation into the shocking revelations regarding Dr. Husel. The investigation came after a Monday report that the critical care physician had prescribed these unprecedented doses of fentanyl to 27 patients.
The earliest death, as discovered, appears to have taken place in March 2015. Jan Thomas, a near-death patient, was prescribed 800 micrograms of the opioid. Thirty-one minutes after the lethal prescription was administered, she was declared dead. As of reporting, the doctor faces at least four lawsuits, representing more than a dozen of the affected families. While the prescribing doctor is at fault in every one of these instances, the nature in which the deaths occurred raises additional and serious questions.
Whenever a doctor requests a large amount of a controlled substance, like fentanyl, there is an extensive process of approval that needs to take place. The hospital pharmacy and the attending nurses are all aware of the doses and, oftentimes, it is a nurse that administers the dose. In almost all of these cases, neither the pharmacists nor the nurse objected to or questioned the alarming prescriptions. This could potentially make all parties involved in the processes complicit in the crimes of Dr. Husel
No motive or rationale has been revealed that would account for the doctor’s actions. Almost every patient was in a “near death” state. In at least one case, the family of the victim was encouraged to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order shortly before a lethal dose was administered.
A wide array of organizations have filed or called for investigations, including the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Ohio Department of Health, and Mount Carmel Hospital (the doctor’s employer). The Ohio Medical Board keeps investigations confidential, but it is reasonable to assume it is looking into the matter. Mount Carmel Hospital has released several statements decrying the actions of the doctor, and assuring individuals that it was quick to act, though some reports contradict this.
Ohio is consistently among the top five states for opioid deaths in the nation. With the first legal sales of medicinal marijuana this week, the Buckeye state could see a major shift in how pain management is treated. Should a recent, massive lawsuit against the opioid industry be successful and medicinal marijuana is adopted throughout the state, a gradual phase-out of most opioids could occur.
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