Christine Allison remembers calling emergency services for her husband Troy, who was having trouble breathing.
“I really expected to go to the hospital, they would make him better, we would be home that night and go on with our lives,” she says, “and that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen at all.”
Within a few hours of arriving at Mount Carmel West, Troy Allison was dead.
“We’d been married 11 years, but we’d been together 18 years. And he wasn’t just my husband. He was my best friend,” she says, choking back tears.
Troy Allison is one of at least 27 patients who died after receiving an excessive dose of fentanyl ordered by Dr. William Husel during his three years at Mount Carmel Health System.
“The system failed tremendously,” Christine says. “And I just want to know what happened. I want answers.”
Christine says neither she nor her husband asked for the dosage of fentanyl. Even if they had, the practice of "physician-assisted death" remains illegal in Ohio.
“I don’t think it was an accident, based on what I’m seeing,” says Allison’s attorney Gerald Leeseberg. He also represents the first family that filed lawsuit against Husel, Mount Carmel and two other employees, filed on behalf of Janet Kavanaugh. “There’s just too much here to suggest that this is an accident. It’s inconceivable to me that this is an accident.”
“We’re not seeing anything to suggest that this patient’s prognosis was terminal or grave,” Leeseberg says.
Troy was in multiple organ failure, which is a life threatening condition, but not necessarily terminal. One study shows a 56 percent death rate from multiple organ system failure in an ICU setting.
“There appears to have been made a very quick determination by somebody that this patient’s life needed to be terminated and his death hastened,” says Leeseberg.
Leeseberg announced that his legal services have been retained by 12 families, and he is considering representing more.
The hospital fired Husel in December. There is nothing on Husel’s disciplinary record with the State Medical Board, but that doesn’t mean that he was never investigated or reported.
A Mount Carmel spokesperson says hospital executives were alerted to Husel’s behavior in late October 2018. While they were investigating that case, another incident occurred on November 19, prompting the hospital to take action.
Then, last month, the hospital notified Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and began reaching out to families.
In a video produced by the hospital, Mount Carmel CEO Ed Lamb says they fired the doctor and took action against several other employees.
"We’re working hard to learn all we can about these cases and we removed 20 hospital staff from providing further patient care," Lamb says. "This includes a number of nurses that administered the medication and a number of staff pharmacists who were also involved in the related patient care."
Lamb says Mount Carmel is also putting in place several new preventive policies.
"These include a new escalation policy for increases in pain medication dosing, and a new approval process for pain medication at high doses during light situations," he says.
Lawyers representing families say they anticipate to bring more lawsuits against Mount Carmel and William Husel.
If you are a Mount Carmel staffer who has information to share or you believe your loved one or family member was impacted by this case, contact WOSU at firstname.lastname@example.org.