U.S. News

Ohio hospital where doctor accused of opioid murders worked settles lawsuits

(Reuters) - The Ohio hospital that employed a doctor charged with 25 counts of murder for giving often fatal doses of opioid painkillers to dozens of sick patients said on Tuesday it has settled two wrongful death lawsuits for a total of $9 million.

Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System settled lawsuits that claim Dr. William Husel authorized drugs that led to the deaths of Donald McClung, 58, in September and Rebecca Walls, 75, in November.

“It is our hope that all of these settlements will bring some measure of closure and comfort to the families,” hospital spokeswoman Cindy Kalis said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Husel turned himself in to Columbus police in June after a six-month investigation into what Mount Carmel called his ordering of “inappropriate” doses of fentanyl for patients, prosecutors said.

Fentanyl, often given for intense pain associated with cancer, is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Altogether, Husel is suspected in 35 patient deaths, prosecutors said. If convicted, he faces 15 years to life in prison for each count.

He is among a wave of U.S. doctors charged for their role in a public health crisis that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said led to a record 47,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017.

The settlements were reached at the time when court rulings in the opioid epidemic are grabbing headlines, including an Oklahoma judge’s decision on Monday that Johnson & Johnson must pay $572.1 million to the state for flooding the market with painkillers.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy