FARMINGTON — In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors said psychiatrist Dr. Robert Allen Weitzel caused the deaths of five patients under his care by his administration of medications to the patients.
Davis County Attorney Mel Wilson said four of the five patients who died within a 16-day period in December 1995 and January 1996 in the Davis Hospital and Medical Center's geriatric-psychiatric unit were killed by excessive amounts of sedative medications administered under Weitzel's orders.
The fifth patient, Ellen Anderson, died 17 hours after she was admitted to the hospital. Wilson said Monday that Weitzel's conduct in administering 20 milligrams of morphine created a grave risk of death and eventually caused her death on Dec. 30, 1995.
Weitzel, 44, is charged with five counts of first-degree felony murder. Second District Judge Thomas Kay also granted the prosecution's request to allow jurors to convict Weitzel of second-degree felony manslaughter or class A misdemeanor negligent homicide.
"Our contention is that the defendant, with the exception of Ellen Anderson, the first death, engaged in a process of active euthanasia." Wilson said the family members of the five patients trusted Weitzel's knowledge and judgment and the patients were "truly vulnerable, unable to understand or assess the care being administered to them."
That care, Wilson alleged, constituted "blasting" patients with psychiatric medications and morphine that weakened the patients' conditions and eventually caused their deaths.
Wilson was to continue his closing arguments Monday in 2nd District Court, followed by closing statements by defense attorney Peter Stirba. The case then will be submitted to the jurors for their deliberation.
Weitzel said he provided appropriate end-of-life care and that each patient suffered an acute medical crisis that caused their deaths. He said he was limited by the patients' own medical directives, which limited the care he could provide.
But Wilson said Monday that the unit "was a psychiatric setting. It was not a hospice setting. It was not a critical-care setting."
When Anderson was admitted to the unit, Dec. 29, 1995, Wilson said, Weitzel never evaluated her medical condition, opting instead to order two injections of morphine that he said ended her life.
"This doctor ordered that medication," Wilson said. "He subjected that patient to those risks knowing full well what the consequences would be."