An Ohio physician charged with murdering 25 patients may have caused the hospital that he worked at to find itself facing potentially catastrophic lawsuits. WBNS-10TV’s investigative team uncovered that Mount Carmel Health System paid nearly $13 million in settlements to various families to prevent wrongful death lawsuits over one of its doctor’s allegedly fatal actions.

Through its former critical care intensivist, 35 near-death patients purportedly received excessive amounts of pain medication while in the ICU. Prosecutors accused the doctor of administering fentanyl in fatal dosages to patients between 2015 to 2018. As a defense, his legal team argued that the physician was only providing his patients with comfort care and did not intend to kill anyone.

Settlements offered to avoid damaging publicity

Taking a proactive approach, the hospital moved to settle the matter privately and paid two of the affected families $4.65 million each. The two payouts represent the largest settlements made so far over the alleged fatal overdose incidents. The private settlements may help the hospital to lessen some of the damaging publicity resulting from its former doctor’s murder charges.

As part of such agreements, however, it is not uncommon for a hospital to insist that a family maintain the settlement and their complaint as a strictly private matter.

Hospitals may demand confidential settlements to avoid legal action

Hospitals facing serious medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits may move to settle a legal dispute quickly. A large hospital system may be concerned with its reputation and the public’s perception of its doctors, nurses and staff. A high-profile lawsuit brought on by the family involved in a highly publicized murder trial could be devastating. Agreeing to settle, however, without going to court may require meeting a hospital’s demands for confidentiality.

By insisting on a nondisclosure agreement, the hospital may include a legal clause that prohibits a family from publicly discussing the negligence. The clause may contain language stating that the parties might incur penalties or repay their entire settlement if they disclose the details of the dispute to a third party.