The latest wrongful death lawsuit filed against Mount Carmel Health System says Dr. William Husel ordered an excessive dose of Dilaudid causing the death of 58-year-old Donald McClung. It is the first of more than a dozen recent lawsuits attributing a patients death to a drug other than fentanyl.

Mount Carmel has said it has identified at least 34 patients who were given excessive doses of pain medication while under the care of Dr. Husel. 28 of those patients received potentially fatal doses.

McClung died Sept. 18, 2018, shortly after being given 10 milligrams of Dilaudid intravenously.

Attorney Mike Rourke says the normal dose for an end-of-life patient in comfort care would be .4 to .8 milligrams.  “So now you have 10mg which is well over ten times the recommended dosage to take care of pain in an end-of-life circumstance,” Rourke said. “Our critical care expert says its more than enough to put somebody into respiratory arrest and if not on a ventilator to cause their death which is exactly what happened.”

McClung was admitted to Mount Carmel West Hospital with mild congestive heart failure. The lawsuit says McClung was sent to the intensive care unit and the plan was to “undergo a heart ablation and possibly receive a pacemaker.”

“He wasn’t on a ventilator,” Rourke said. “He was on oxygen…but he was described as being alert, oriented.”

In a statement, family members said, “They gave us hope that things were going well. Don was acting like he was getting back to himself.

But Dr. Husel called the family to say McClung had taken a turn for the worse. As a result of that call McClung’s status was changed to do-not-resuscitate with no escalation in care. 

But family members say they found McClung sitting up in bed, breathing on his own and able to talk.

The lawsuit says about two hours later, Husel ordered first 4 milligrams of Dilaudid, followed by another 6-milligrams.

Rourke says family members were in the room at the time and clearly remember hearing the male nurse question Husel’s orders. “Three times he said – ‘are you sure you want me to give this to him?’ And each time Dr. Husel said yes.”

Rourke says McClung died a short time later.

Husel remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by Columbus Police and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.