The Ohio doctor accused of overprescribing fentanyl to his critically ill patients and hastening their deaths was found not guilty of 14 counts of murder on Wednesday.
William Husel and his attorney embraced at the defense table after the 14th and final not guilty verdict was read in court. He was subsequently discharged from the courtroom. Franklin County Ohio prosecutor Gary Tyack said in a statement, “We accept the jury verdict.”
The decision comes just over a week after jurors began deliberating and days after they said they were at an impasse and could not reach a unanimous verdict, leading Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook to instruct them to continue their deliberations.
Husel faced 14 counts of murder as prosecutors said he purposely administered excessive doses of fentanyl that caused or sped up the deaths of patients in the intensive care unit from 2015 to 2018. All of the counts also included the lesser charge of attempted murder.
“If you hasten a person’s death, even if their death is as sure as the sun is going to rise in the morning, if you hasten that along, you have caused their death under the eyes of the law,” Franklin County prosecutor David Zeyen said in closing arguments.
Husel was fired December 5, 2018. That same month, an attorney representing Mount Carmel reached out to the Franklin County prosecutor’s office, launching an investigation into Husel.
During their initial conversations, the attorney said a doctor – later identified as Husel – was “administering doses of fentanyl at a level that they internally believed were inappropriate and not for a legitimate medical purpose,” said Ron O’Brien, the Franklin County prosecutor at the time.
The investigation found the doses, which ranged from 500 to 2,000 micrograms, “were designed to hasten the death of the patients that were being treated,” O’Brien said.
Fentanyl is an opioid used to treat patients with chronic severe pain or severe pain after surgery, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The drug, about 100 times more potent than morphine, is also often used in end-of-life care to reduce discomfort in dying patients.
The DEA considers 2 milligrams of fentanyl, or 2,000 micrograms, to be a potentially lethal dose.