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The former Mount Carmel anesthesiologist faces 14 counts of murder after prosecutors say he ordered excessive doses of painkillers that hastened the deaths of patients.

William Husel's murder trial begins Tuesday

Fired Mount Carmel doctor William Husel
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
Fired Mount Carmel doctor William Husel

More than three years after being fired, former Mount Carmel doctor William Husel goes on trial Tuesday. Prosecutors say the former anesthesiologist ordered excessive doses of fentanyl that killed patients.

The case made worldwide headlines in January of 2019 when then Mount Carmel Health System CEO Ed Lamb announced they had fired Husel after an investigation into painkiller prescriptions.

"During the five years he worked here, this doctor ordered significantly excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for at least 27 patients who were near death. These patients' families had requested that all life-saving measures be stopped, yet the amount of medicine the doctor ordered was more than what was needed to provide comfort. On behalf of Mount Carmel and Trinity Health, our parent organization, we apologize for this tragedy, and we're truly sorry for the additional grief this may cause these families,” the statement said.

Five months later, prosecutors announced Husel had been indicted on 25 counts of murder, one of the largest such indictments in Ohio history.

“I likened it to the burning down of a candle,” then Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said at a news conference. “That candle, while there may just be a half an inch of wax left, if I blow that candle out I’m causing that flame to go out sooner than it would naturally.”

Prosecutors eventually dropped 11 of the 25 murder charges after repeated objections by Husel's attorneys over when doses became lethal.

Such disagreement are common even within the pain management field, where experts have said there is no defined standard on when a dose becomes "excessive."

“The whole area of how much pain medicine to give, how to manage someone who you are going to allow to die, is very grey,” said Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University, while speaking to WOSU in 2019.

“There's not like clear-cut rules or clear-cut standards about what to do," Caplan said. "So challenging, asking questions, that's very appropriate. But if you get answers that you think make sense or at least quiet down your questions, that's certainly common and would be happening at many hospitals.”

Husel's trial is expected to last eight to ten weeks.