Doctors ‘pull the plug on WRONG patient in case of mistaken identity’

Doctors ‘pull the plug on WRONG patient in case of mistaken identity’

January 28, 2019

‘I killed somebody that I didn’t even know’: Doctors ‘pull the plug on the WRONG patient after seeking permission from the sister of a DIFFERENT man who had the same name and age’

  • Freddy Clarence Williams, 40, died in St. Barnabas hospital in Brooklyn in July
  • Was brought in after suffering a drug overdose and had his wallet in his pocket
  • Staff found his social security number in there but mistakenly identified him as Frederick Clarence Williams – the brother of Shirell Powell 
  • She had not heard from her sibling for weeks when she got the phone call that he was brain dead
  • She went to the hospital and thought he looked different to her brother but because his face was swollen and covered by tubes, she believed it was him 
  • It was only after she agreed to turn off his support that she says she got a call from the medical examiner saying it was not her brother
  • Her brother had in fact been in custody after being arrested for assault 
  • Now, she is suing the hospital for unspecified damages 
  • It remains unclear if the family of the man who did die has been made aware  

A New York City hospital is being sued for switching off the life support of the wrong patient, after they misidentified him and asked permission from the sister of a man with the same name.   

Freddy Clarence Williams, 40, died on July 29 at St. Barnabas Hospital in Brooklyn after Shirell Williams gave doctors permission to withdraw his life support because he was brain dead. 

Shirell had been called to the hospital two weeks earlier after Williams overdosed from drugs, leaving him severely brain damaged. Doctors found the man’s wallet in his pocket and researched his social security number, according to Shirell’s lawsuit. 

They thought it was Shirell’s brother, Frederick Williams, who was lying in the bed, she claims. 

Doctors told Shirell Powell (left) that her brother, Frederick Williams (right) was brain dead. It was in fact another man and she gave them permission to withdraw his life support without realizing it, she claims in a lawsuit against the hospital 

She said that at first, she thought his appearance was altered but that she put it down to the fact his face was swollen and she had not heard from her brother at the time for several weeks. 

Two days later, the doctors told her he was brain dead. She contacted their relatives from out of state and asked them to join her at the hospital to say goodbye. 

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It was not until the Medical Examiner’s Office called her after they had performed an autopsy that, she claims, she realized it was the wrong man. 

Her brother, it emerged, had been in jail for weeks at the time on an assault charge but was very much still alive. He is now an inmate on Rikers Island. 

Now, Shirell is suing the hospital for unspecified damages claiming they put her and her family through emotional turmoil. 

She is unaware if Frederick Clarence Williams’ family has been told that he is no longer alive. 

Shirell and her family mourned her brother after she gave doctors permission to withdraw his life support. They were preparing for his funeral when she says she got the call telling her it was a different man. Her brother was in fact in jail and had been all along 

‘I killed somebody that I didn’t even know. I gave consent,’ Powell told The New York Post.  

She explained that while the man’s face was swollen the first time she saw him, he did bear a striking resemblance to her younger brother. 

‘He had tubes in his mouth, a neck brace. He was a little swollen . . . [But] he resembled my brother so much…the eyebrows, the nose, the structure — it looked like [our] brother,’ she said. 

Her sister was not as immediately convinced when she arrived at the hospital to say goodbye. 

‘She walked up into the room and said, ‘That is not my brother.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’

A spokesman for St. Barnabas hospital in Brooklyn, where the incident occurred, told they did not think the woman’s claims ‘have merit’

‘The guy was much bigger,’ she said of Freddy Clarence. 

But even the man’s own daughters could not tell the difference. 

They had traveled from Virginia to say goodbye to him and wept by his bedside before his life support was turned off, according to Powell. 

‘She was hysterical.  She was holding his hand, kissing him, crying,’ Powell said of her 17-year-old niece Brooklyn. 

When she realized it was not her brother who had died, she called him in prison.

‘He was saying, ‘You were going to kill me?’ I explained to him, once you’re brain-dead, there is nothing to do,’ she said. 

The lawsuit seeks unspecific damages. Powell’s lawyer Alex Dudelson claimed that when he complained to the hospital, he was ignored. 

‘The representatives [at St. Barnabas] basically spit in my face. This is beyond reckless conduct. I requested an investigation. Nothing more. An apology would have been nice,’ he said. 

A spokesman for the hospital told on Monday that while they could not comment on ongoing litigation, ‘we don’t believe the suit has any merit.’     

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