Woman says she pulled life support of total stranger due to hospital error
A New York woman is seeking unspecified legal damages after a hospital mixup ended in her removing a complete stranger from life support.
Shirell Powell says her ordeal began on July 15, 2018, when a man named Freddy Clarence Williams, 40, was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx suffering from an apparent drug overdose, the New York Post reports.
Although Williams was carrying his Social Security card at the time, hospital employees misidentified him as Powell's brother Frederick Williams, who also is 40 but does not have a middle name, and called to notify her that he was in critical condition. When she arrived in the emergency room, she said she fully believed the dying man was her sibling.
"He had tubes in his mouth, a neck brace," Powell told the New York Post. "He was a little swollen ... [but] he resembled my brother so much. He couldn’t speak from the time they brought him in the hospital. They just assumed it was my brother."
Two days after Freddy Clarence Williams was admitted, Powell was informed by a physician that the patient was brain-dead and would likely never recover from his injuries. She ended up making the difficult decision to remove him from life support on July 29.
"That is my baby brother, so it was really hurtful," she said. "I was worried, hurt, crying, screaming, calling everybody. It was a horrible feeling."
However, an August 2018 autopsy by the city Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the deceased man's true identity. It was later discovered that Powell's real brother was in a Manhattan jail stemming from a July 1 assault arrest. Powell is currently seeking damages from St. Barnabas Hospital and two of its employees over the traumatic incident.
"I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn’t even know," Powell said. "I gave consent. I barely sleep thinking about this all the time."
"To actually stand over him and watch this man take his last breath—sometimes I can’t even talk about it because I get upset and start crying. On the one hand, I’m thankful that it wasn’t [my brother]. On the other hand, I killed somebody that was a dad or a brother."
When asked about the lawsuit, hospital spokesman Steven Clark told the New York Post, "We don’t feel there is any merit to this claim."