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Ohio jury acquits doctor charged with prescribing fentanyl to kill 14 patients

April 20 (UPI) -- An Ohio doctor was acquitted Wednesday on charges that said he overprescribed powerful painkillers to kill a number of patients -- accusations that could have sent him to prison for life.

After deliberating for almost a week, the jury found Dr. William Husel not guilty of charges that he intentionally caused the deaths of more than a dozen patients by prescribing large amounts of the opioid fentanyl.

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He was charged with 14 counts of murder, but the judge told jurors that they could find Husel guilty of lesser charges, such as attempted murder.

The patient deaths related to the charges occurred between 2015 and 2018 and the patients' ages ranged from 37 to 82. Husel's trial lasted for several weeks and included dozens of witnesses.

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"The jury after review of all the evidence was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that William Husel was guilty of any charges submitted to them," the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office said, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "We accept the jury verdict."

Prosecutors argued that Husel prescribed up to 10 times the necessary amounts of fentanyl for his patients. Husel, then a physician at the Mount Carmel Health System, had treated intensive care patients with a range of ailments, including cancer, pneumonia and organ failure.

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Husel's attorneys argued that no maximum doses of fentanyl are considered illegal under state law and that Husel's patients were given comfort with the drugs as they dealt with their conditions. Defense witnesses testified at trial that Husel's patients died of their conditions, not the opioids.

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"Why will this man risk his family, his career, 17 years of trying to be a doctor, every single thing he has worked for, to hasten someone's death or to kill them?" defense attorney Jose Baez has asked, according to NBC News.

Husel had his medical license suspended in 2019 and several of the patients' families filed wrongful death lawsuits. They ultimately settled with the hospital system for about $13.5 million.

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