(CBS) – In one of the largest ever murder cases against a health care professional, a former doctor in Ohio is accused in the overdose killings of more than two dozen patients. William Husel pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to 25 counts of murder.
The criminal investigation has been going on for about six months now. Husel was fired by his Columbus-area hospital in December. Prosecutors say he gave excessive amounts of painkillers to the patients over the course of three years, hastening the deaths of some and possibly causing the deaths of others.
Prosecutors say Amy Pfaff’s mother Beverlee Schirtzinger’s health could have improved with proper treatment. But they say she died after her doctor, William Husel, prescribed a fatal dose of the powerful painkiller fentanyl.
“I’m just kind of numb to him right now, and what happened and what he did to my mom,” Pfaff said. “The fact that he gave it to one patient, and then gave it to another … it’s upsetting.”
Husel is charged in the overdose deaths of 25 patients between 2015 and 2018. According to investigators, he ordered doses that were between 10 and 40 times greater than deemed medically appropriate. He allegedly told many family members the same story he told Christine Allison, whose husband Troy was in a truck accident: “Oh, no, he’s dying, I’m 99.9 percent sure he’s brain dead.”
In February, CBS News spoke with Allison and other family members who lost loved ones under Husel’s care. Allison says her husband was dead three hours after getting to the hospital.
The charges form one of the biggest murder cases ever brought against a U.S. health care professional. Husel’s attorney, Richard Blake, says his client never intended to speed up any patient’s death.
“I think it’s important that everyone watching this understand that the patients that we are talking about are end-of-life patients,” Blake said. “They were going to die whether Dr. Husel was on, or whether another doctor was on.”
The hospital involved, Mount Carmel Health System, tipped-off authorities to Husel’s actions after they conducted their own internal investigation. The hospital continues to cooperate with law enforcement.
Employees who helped administer the drugs are no longer treating patients and no other charges have been filed.