COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The defense began presenting its case Wednesday in the murder trial against a former Mount Carmel West doctor.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday in the murder trial against William Husel, 46, who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the deaths of 14 intensive care patients at the former Mount Carmel West hospital from 2015 to 2018.
After a 75-minute delay, court proceedings began as the defense called Dr. Joel Zivot as its first witness in its case. Dr. Zivot is a physician currently at Emory University in Atlanta.
Zivot, who specializes in anesthesiology, was asked by defense attorney Jose Baez about painkillers used in palliative extubations, like fentanyl. Unlike morphine, Zivot said fentanyl has a short half life, allowing doctors to order much larger doses of the painkiller.
Zivot used a marker to illustrate a medical process known as titration, which he said deals with doctors determining the sufficient amount of dose to give a patient in order to match or surpass the level of pain a patient is experiencing.
Death during the removal of a ventilator, he said, can be an extremely painful process.
“Very important to put in place fentanyl in this case to blunt the experience of being short of breath which can immediately occur when the ventilator is removed,” Zivot said.
In the afternoon Baez questioned Zivot about intubation, anoxic brain injuries, and opioid tolerance.
Baez also asked Zivot about his characterization of Husel’s 14 patients, whom Zivot claimed had “severe and unrecoverable illnesses” that made recovery to a normal state of health impossible.
Zivot also affirmed that the cause of death for each of the 14 patients was due to their underlying medical conditions.
Once Baez concluded his line of questioning, prosecuting attorney Taylor Mick cross-examined Zivot about news articles he wrote in which he condemned physician-assisted suicide.
Reading verbatim from an article Zivot wrote, Mick said: “Doctors have the power to spin a convincing case for withdrawal of care when patients are ill, and the patients’ families believe that the choice before them is the only one. It is important to recognize that so empowered, some physicians will act to end life.”
Zivot, while he affirmed that he wrote the aforementioned statement, said it was only made in the context of physician-assisted suicide.
While prosecutors allege that Husel ordered excessive, fatal doses of the painkiller fentanyl for his patients, defense attorneys contend that the doctor was providing comfort care for critically ill patients as they were removed from a ventilator.
Before the prosecution rested their case Tuesday, the only witness they called was Brian Mollette, the son of Danny Mollette. Danny Mollette is one of Husel’s alleged victims who died in 2017 after receiving what his family said was a lethal dose of fentanyl, versed, and hydromorphone.
Mollette was the last of the prosecution’s 53 witnesses over six weeks.
The prosecution’s witnesses have ranged from family members of critically ill patients who later died at Mount Carmel to nurses who administered potentially lethal doses of painkillers, some giving emotional testimony as they described their family member’s care under Husel, while medical professionals who worked directly with Husel often described him as a helpful mentor.
Here are some of the individuals who may appear during the proceedings:
- Michael Holbrook
- Dr. William Husel
- Jose Baez
- Jaime Lapidus
- Diane Menashe
- Corinne Buker
- Paula Sawyers
- Taylor Mick
- David Zeyen
- Janet Grubb