Families accuse Ohio hospital, doctor of giving "lethal" doses of fentanyl to loved ones

"Lethal" doses of fentanyl: Doctor accused

A former Ohio doctor is under investigation for allegedly prescribing "significantly excessive and potentially fatal" doses of a highly potent drug, fentanyl, to dozens of patients who later died. Dr. William Husel was fired in December, and Mount Carmel Hospital reported at least 27 of the patients were near death and receiving intensive care.

Twenty-three caregivers, including 14 nurses, six pharmacists, and three managers were placed on leave.

From her doorstep in Columbus, Ohio, Christine Allison has a clear view of Mount Carmel Hospital. "Sometimes I kind of look at it and say, 'I hate you,'" Allison told CBS News correspondent Anna Werner. Werner sat down with five people who said their family members died while under Husel's care.

Last July, paramedics took her 44-year-old husband, Troy, there. He'd been in a truck accident and was having trouble breathing. Shortly after he arrived, she claims the attending doctor, Husel, told her: "'Oh no, he's dying. I'm 99.9 percent sure he is brain dead,'" Allison recounted. 

What Allison said she didn't know was that during his care, her husband received what her lawyers in a civil suit describe as "a lethal dose of fentanyl." Some three hours after arriving at Mount Carmel, Troy was dead.

"After it was over, we go down in the parking garage. I looked at my daughter and I said, 'What the -- just happened? She's like, 'Mom, I have no clue,'" Allison said.
 
Allison is now suing Husel and Mount Carmel Hospital, alleging the drug was "intentionally prescribed" to "hasten the termination of Troy Allison's life."
 
And she's not alone. Others are also suing, alleging their relatives died after receiving "lethal" doses of fentanyl prescribed by Husel.
 
Lynn Marshall lost his 39-year-old brother, Nick Timmons.
 
"They're like, 'We don't think your brother's going to make it.' And I'm like, 'But what if he did?' And they're like, 'We think he's brain dead,'" Marshall said.
 
Lisa Coleman watched her 80-year-old father Jim Allen pass away.
 
"It's cold. Heartless. It's horrifying," Coleman said.
 
Helen Young lost her husband of 46 years, Sanders.

"The doctor [came] and told me, he said, 'Mr. Young's kidneys are gone. His lungs are gone. He's brain dead.' I said, 'How did all that happen at once?' I said, 'How in the world did that happen?'" Young said.
 
Mount Carmel Hospital is investigating.
  
In a taped statement, CEO Ed Lamb apologized and said that during Husel's five years at the hospital, "this doctor ordered significantly excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for at least 27 patients who were near death."

But Husel's attorney told CBS News, "We dispute the hospital's characterization and continue to review the patient records" recently provided to them. Attorney Richard Blake said the doctor did not intend to kill anyone nor were these mercy killings.
 
The hospital's apology isn't good enough for Albert Bellisari, whose 69-year-old sister Joanne died at Mount Carmel in 2015 after also allegedly receiving a "lethal" dose of fentanyl.
 
"Isn't anybody watching the ship?" Bellisari said. "What's keeping this from happening? What, don't they have any accountability for their actions?

Attorney Gerald Leeseberg represents nine families whose loved ones died, including the five in our interview.
 
"It happened for years and years, and it happened with multiple people who had to have been getting red flags or warnings that the orders that Dr. Husel was making were inappropriate." Leeseberg said.

"How does this go on for three years, and nobody notices?" Werner asked.

"Well, that's the $64,000 question," Leeseberg said.
 
"We have so many questions, we don't know why he did it," Bellisari said. "You go to the hospital to get well, hopefully walk out, not die."

"That man shouldn't be allowed to be in medicine at all," Young said. "He needs to be prosecuted for real, 'cause look what he did to these people."

Husel's attorney, as we said, denies there was any intent on the doctor's part to kill anyone. But the Franklin County prosecutor's office said they are investigating. The hospital said in a statement that the way this was finally brought to their attention was that an employee spoke up. But officials have not explained why they did not take action sooner.