By Associated Press - Friday, December 20, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ten former colleagues of an Ohio hospital doctor who pleaded not guilty to murder in 25 patients’ deaths are coming to his defense in a new lawsuit.

The action was brought Thursday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court by nine nurses and a pharmacist once employed by Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus, NBC News reported. In it, the former employees argue that the hospital wrongfully terminated and defamed Dr. William Husel.

Mount Carmel fired Husel a year ago after it found he ordered potentially fatal doses of pain medication for dozens of patients. The lawsuit says hospital executives were ignorant about the appropriate standards of care and that the pain medicine was needed to help patients in intensive care in their last minutes of life.

“This preposterous (but headline-grabbing) false narrative of an evil rogue doctor and his complicit staff ultimately destroyed the lives and livelihoods of dozens of dedicated nurses and pharmacists, and convinced the public, the Franklin County prosecutor, and the State Attorney General that something terrible had been going on,” the lawsuit said. “But nothing could be further from the truth.”

His current lawyers shy away from publicly discussing Husel’s motivations, but his previous attorney in the criminal case said the doctor was providing comfort care to dying patients, not trying to kill them.

Mount Carmel Health System said in a statement that the “claim has no merit” and that it “thoroughly investigated these events and stand by our decisions.”

The suit comes as 25 Mount Carmel nurses and three pharmacists are facing discipline for their roles in administering the medication. Hearings begin in February before the Ohio Board of Nursing and in April before the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

The 10 former employees say they were not betrayed or coerced by Husel, but that hospital executives “panicked” over how the public and government regulators might react to the level of medication he ordered.

The group contends the dosages were “high but appropriate,” as allowed by the hospital’s “flexible and discretion-permitting policies.”

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