Ohio Doctor Acquitted Of Fentanyl Overdose Deaths
William Husel had been accused of "wildly" over-prescribing fentanyl and killing 14 patients. Lawyers note Husel is still facing civil suits. A surge in food bank use and a bill to end coroner investigations of miscarriages in California, abortion access in South Dakota and more are also in the news.
The Washington Post:
Ohio Doctor William Husel Acquitted Of Killing 14 Patients With Fentanyl In Murder Trial
William Husel, an Ohio doctor who was accused of killing 14 patients with what prosecutors described as “wildly excessive” doses of fentanyl between 2015 and 2018, was acquitted on all counts of murder Wednesday, concluding one of the most significant murder cases of its kind against a health-care professional. Husel, a onetime physician of the year trained at the Cleveland Clinic, faced one count of murder for each of the 14 critically ill patients he was accused of killing. The jury deliberated for seven days before finding him not guilty on all 14 counts in what was one of the largest murder trials in Ohio history. (Shammas and Bella, 4/20)
Lawyers Say Husel Must Answer To Families In Civil Court
Lawyers representing families whose civil suits are still pending against former Mount Carmel Health doctor William Husel say he will be held accountable for medical malpractice, despite his acquittal Wednesday in criminal court. After a seven-week-long criminal trial on Wednesday, a jury found Husel not guilty on all 14 counts of murder in connection with patients who died under his care after he prescribed high doses of fentanyl and other pain killers. Civil lawyer Gerry Leeseberg said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the families in this case are frustrated and disappointed, but Leeseberg said he expected this outcome. (Laird and Narciso, 4/20)
In other health news from across the U.S. —
Los Angeles Times:
Inflation Brings California Food Banks A Surge In First-Time Users On 'Razor’s Edge'
More than a dozen people stood in the rain last week before the gates at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services distribution center had even opened. Parked cars wrapped around the block. “Our walkup line is growing. We’re hearing from people that they don’t want to waste their gas sitting in the drive-through line while waiting for their boxes,” said spokesperson Kevin Buffalino. “People are on that razor’s edge right now, and the cost of gas is eating into their food budgets.” Food banks across the state are seeing an influx of new faces as spikes in the cost of groceries and gas have some Californians seeking help for the first time. The numbers of those receiving services dipped at the start of the year as the spread of the COVID-19 virus waned, but are now rising in the face of the highest inflation in 41 years. (Mays, 4/20)
California Bill Would End Coroner Investigations Of Lost Pregnancies
A bill that would abolish the requirement that coroners investigate stillbirths passed the Assembly Health Committee on an 11-3 vote late Tuesday, while hundreds of anti-abortion activists protested against the proposed change on the Capitol steps. Under current law, all fetal deaths at or after 20 weeks, with the exception of abortions, are treated as “unattended deaths” in California, requiring a coroner to investigate. In 48 of 58 California counties, the sheriff is also the coroner, which means that law enforcement becomes involved and the person who is pregnant could face potential prosecution. That, say groups representing obstetricians and gynecologists, is dangerous and could make pregnant people less likely to seek medical care. (Duara, 4/20)
Doctors Facing Challenges To Provide Abortion Access "Even When Roe Is Still The Law Of The Land"
Dr. Sarah Traxler works at the only abortion clinic in the state of South Dakota, but she lives hours away in Minnesota. Her trip involves a flight from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls, an escort at the airport for security reasons and a 20-minute drive to the clinic — all before her first patient. It's a commute she's done monthly for the past seven years. (Shamlian, 4/20)
Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Prescription Drugs Flood Greater Cincinnati
Jaime Puerta walked into his teenage son’s bedroom to wake him on what seemed to be a routine Wednesday morning.But Daniel was still. "His eyes were half open and there was a tinge of blue on his upper lip," Puerta said. "I immediately knew something terrible had happened." The distraught father called paramedics. They got Daniel's heart beating and rushed him to a hospital. Five days later, on April 6, 2020, Daniel Puerta-Johnson, 16, of Santa Clarita, California, was pronounced dead. His death was among those counted in a spike in teenagers and young adults who died from an unintentional overdose that year. (Nyerges, 4/21)