US woman sues hospital after heartbreaking life support mix-up

St Barnabus Hospital in New York told the woman a man was her brother.
St Barnabus Hospital in New York told the woman a man was her brother. Photo credit: Google Earth.

A US woman is suing a hospital after she gave permission for a man's life support to be turned off when doctors falsely identified him as her brother.

Shirell Powell was asked for permission by St Barnabus Hospital in New York to turn off the life support of the person, who they insisted was her brother, reports the New York Post.

The two men had the same name and age - but while Freddy Williams was dying in hospital, Ms Powell's real brother, Frederick Williams, was in jail on assault charges.

The 48-year-old said her brother had not been seen for a couple of weeks at the time, and when she had arrived at the hospital to see him she could not make out the man's face as it was so badly swollen and bruised.

"He was a little swollen... [But] he resembled my brother so much," she told the New York Post.

"He couldn't speak from the time they brought him in the hospital. They just assumed it was my brother."

The man in hospital, Freddy Clarence Williams, and had been admitted after a suspected drug overdose.

After two days, doctors pronounced him brain-dead - and with Ms Powell's permission, they turned off his life support.

She says after making the decision she called relatives to come and see her brother for the last time, and her brother's two daughters were told the terrible news.

When an autopsy revealed that the man who had died was not in fact Ms Powell's brother, she says they were busy making funeral plans.

"She called us just in time - we would have been burying someone else."

Ms Powell told the New York Post she was unsure whether the family of the man who had died in hospital had been contacted about the case.


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