AN Ohio doctor has been charged with murdering 25 hospital patients with deliberate overdoses of painkillers, many administered by other medical workers on his orders.
William Husel is accused of ordering outsize doses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl and causing the deaths between 2015 and 2018.
Husel, 43, pleaded not guilty after turning himself in earlier in the day. A judge set bail at $US1 million ($A1.43 million).
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Husel’s lawyer said he was trying to provide “comfort care” for dying patients.
“At no time did Dr. Husel ever intend to euthanize anyone – euthanize meaning speed up death,” defence attorney Richard Blake said.
The patients were going to die whether they were being treated by Husel or another physician, Blake said.
The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System has publicly apologised and pledged to make “meaningful changes” to ensure such events never happen again.
The system found that Husel ordered potentially fatal drug doses for 29 patients, including five who might have received those drugs when there still was a chance to improve their conditions with treatment.
The hospital system said six more patients got doses that were excessive but probably did not cause their deaths.
The murder charges were brought only in cases that involved fentanyl doses of at least 500 micrograms.
Husel was fired in December and stripped of his medical license after concerns about his orders were brought to the attention of officials at Mount Carmel, where he had worked for five years.
All employees who had a role in administering medication to the victims have been removed from patient care as a precaution, hospital officials have said.
All told, 48 nurses and pharmacists were reported to their respective professional boards. Thirty of those employees were put on leave, and 18 no longer work there, including some who left years ago, officials said.
© AP 2019