Medical Justice: Doctor William Husel vs Nurse Radonda Vaught
William Husel Scott is an American physician who was charged with murdering 14 patients using painkillers. He was later acquitted on all charges. He was accused of murdering 14 people from February 11, 2015, to November 20, 2018, by fentanyl overdosage at the Mount Carmel West and St. Ann’s Hospitals in Columbus, Ohio, cleared of all charges on 20 April, 2022.
Radonda Vaught, 35, of Bethpage, Tennessee, was licensed as a registered nurse in Tennessee in February 2015 and has no history of medical discipline on her record, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Radonda Vaught, 35, of Bethpage, was criminally indicted on abuse and reckless homicide charges after she allegedly gave a patient the wrong medication, leading to her death. Many say they fear her case could set a precedent of prosecuting medical professionals for honest mistakes, so the case has become a rallying cry for nurses.
But Vaught’s case was said to be criminalized by the justice system, leading her to a jail term of at least 12 years.
The story of this fatal error spans three years, two legal proceedings and at least three investigating agencies. Many of the facts of the case were initially obscured from the public, and details that trickle into the public sphere are often incomplete and out of order.
The Ohio doctor accused of overprescribing fentanyl to his critically ill patients and hastening their deaths was found not guilty of 14 counts of murder on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt officials have said the hospital acted swiftly after the death, including explaining the mistake to the family and taking “personnel actions.” The hospital also cooperated with the criminal investigation into Vaught, a spokesman said.
William Husel and his attorney embraced at the defense table after the 14th and final not guilty verdict was read in court. He was subsequently discharged from the courtroom. Franklin County Ohio prosecutor Gary Tyack said in a statement, “We accept the jury verdict.”
Husel faced 14 counts of murder as prosecutors said he purposely administered excessive doses of fentanyl that caused or sped up the deaths of patients in the intensive care unit from 2015 to 2018. All of the counts also included the lesser charge of attempted murder.
“If you hasten a person’s death, even if their death is as sure as the sun is going to rise in the morning, if you hasten that along, you have caused their death under the eyes of the law,” Franklin County prosecutor David Zeyen said in closing arguments.
Husel prescribed the opioids, sedatives and paralysis-inducing drugs to patients during the night shift in the former Mount Carmel West hospital in Franklinton. Some of this patients were comatose. Others had multiple organ failures.
But it was the large doses of fentanyl Husel prescribed that became a prosecution focus. The state’s experts testified that Husel’s dosing was 10 to 20 times higher than was necessary to control pain during removal of breathing tubes during palliative extubations.
Husel’s defense called just one witness, Dr. Joel Zivot, who studied the medical records of the 14 patients and determined they had severe and unrecoverable illnesses. Zivot also testified that recovery to a normal state of health was not possible for the patients, and he determined underlying medical issues caused their deaths, therefore William Husel was not guilty.
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