Doc gave near-death patients excessive pain meds

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An intensive care doctor ordered “significantly excessive and potentially fatal” doses of pain medicine for at least 27 near-death patients in the past few years after families asked that lifesaving measures be stopped, an Ohio hospital system announced after being sued by a family alleging an improper dose of fentanyl actively hastened the death of one of those patients.

The Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System acknowledged the doses were larger than needed to provide comfort for dying patients. That raises questions about whether there was an intentional or possibly illegal use of the drugs to accelerate deaths.

The system said it has fired the doctor, reported findings of an internal investigation to authorities and removed 20 employees from patient care pending further investigation, including nurses who administered the medication as well as pharmacists.

Mount Carmel said the situation came to light because an employee reported a safety concern.

The health system shared no information about what might have prompted employees to approve and administer the excessive dosages.

“Regardless of the reason the actions were taken, we take responsibility for the fact that the processes in place were not sufficient to prevent these actions from happening,” Mount Carmel President and CEO Ed Lamb said in a video statement. “We’re doing everything to understand how this happened and what we need to do to ensure that it never happens again.”