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Prosecution rests case, defense begins in William Husel murder trial

William Husel sits during his trial Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. Husel is accused of ordering excessive painkillers for patients in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System. He was indicted in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. [Barbara J. Perenic / The Columbus Dispatch via AP, Pool]
William Husel sits during his trial Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio.

After the prosecution rested Tuesday, it was the defense's turn to call witnesses in the murder trial of former Mount Carmel doctor William Husel, who has pleaded not guilty to murder charges stemming from the deaths of 14 of his former patients.

The first witness for the defense was Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist and intensive care specialist at Emory University in Atlanta. Zivot spoke at length about the use of opioids to treat pain in dying patients and why there is no maximum dose. He described the shortness of breath patients experience from being taken off of a ventilator as "an extremely uncomfortable and arguably terrifying experience."

"And so it's very important to put in place--in this case, fentanyl--to blunt the kind of experience of being short of breath that can immediately occur when the ventilator is removed," said Zivot.

"While we agree that there should be pain control, the practice is not to specify a dose per se, but to say, give what is needed. Give what is effective," Zivot continued. "If you set some dose and said, 'You can't give any more than this,' there will be most certainly someone who needed more and didn't get it."

Prosecutors had previously filed a motion to prevent Zivot and two other experts from testifying, arguing Zivot relied on improper information--including contact with Husel--to form his opinion.

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