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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.

Prosecution rests case, defense begins in William Husel murder trial

Former Mt. Carmel physician William Husel, left, appears at the Franklin County Common Pleas Courthouse with attoney Jose Baez, right, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. Husel is charged with 14 counts of murder of patients to whom he allegedly gave excessive doses of the painkiller Fentanyl.
Barbara J. Perenic
/
AP
Former Mt. Carmel physician William Husel, left, appears at the Franklin County Common Pleas Courthouse with attoney Jose Baez, right, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. Husel is charged with 14 counts of murder of patients to whom he allegedly gave excessive doses of the painkiller Fentanyl.

After the prosecution rested Tuesday, it was the defense's turn to call witnesses in the murder trial of former Mount Carmel doctor William Husel, who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges stemming from the deaths of 14 of his former patients.

The first witness for the defense was Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist and intensive care specialist at Emory University in Atlanta. Zivot spoke at length about the use of opioids to treat pain in dying patients and why there is no maximum dose. He described the shortness of breath patients experience from being taken off of a ventilator as "an extremely uncomfortable and arguably terrifying experience."

"And so it's very important to put in place--in this case, fentanyl--to blunt the kind of experience of being short of breath that can immediately occur when the ventilator is removed," said Zivot.

"While we agree that there should be pain control, the practice is not to specify a dose per se, but to say, give what is needed. Give what is effective," Zivot continued. "If you set some dose and said, 'You can't give any more than this,' there will be most certainly someone who needed more and didn't get it."

Prosecutors had previously filed a motion to prevent Zivot and two other experts from testifying, arguing Zivot relied on improper information--including contact with Husel--to form his opinion.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.