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Closing arguments begin in former Mount Carmel doctor’s murder trial

William Husel

Closing arguments in the trial of an Ohio doctor charged in multiple hospital deaths began Monday with a prosecutor telling jurors that regardless of how close a patient is to death, it’s illegal to speed up the process.

Dr. William Husel is accused of ordering excessive painkillers for 14 patients in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System. He was indicted in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl.

The prosecution and defense both rested last month after a weekslong trial that began Feb. 22. Jurors seated for the trial heard from 53 prosecution witnesses since the trial began, including medical experts, Mount Carmel employees, investigators, and family members of all 14 patients. Prosecutors took five weeks to present their case.

Prosecutors have said ordering such high dosages for a nonsurgical situation indicated an intent to end lives. Husel’s attorneys say he was providing comfort care for dying patients, not trying to kill them. Husel has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of murder.

It is a crime to kill a dying man, regardless of how close they are to death, David Zeyen, an assistant Franklin County prosecutor, told jurors Monday.

“Even though they were very critically ill, and perhaps some of them were on a trajectory to die very soon anyways, you cannot hasten their death, you cannot quickly, painlessly cause the death of a dying person,” Zeyen said. “Can’t do it — not in the state of Ohio.”

Husel’s attorneys were expected to present their own closing argument later Monday. Those lawyers called a single witness on March 30 — a Georgia anesthesiologist who testified that Husel’s patients died from their medical conditions and not Husel’s actions. The defense rested the following day.

Monday’s arguments before Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook began after a delay of several days. The delay came after a document used to disqualify judges was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court in the Husel case last week. The document was sealed and no details were available about it.

Mount Carmel has reached settlements totaling more than $16.7 million over the deaths of at least 17 patients, with more lawsuits pending.