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Woman Mistakenly Takes Man Who Isn’t Her Brother Off Of Life Support After Hospital Mix-Up

A woman is suing St. Barnabas Hospital after stopping life support on a man she believed to be her brother. It was only later she found out it was the wrong man.

Shirell Powell was called to the hospital by doctors on July 15, 2018 for her brother Fredrick Williams. They said he had suffered brain damage from a drug overdose. The man was wrapped in a neckbrace, face swollen and tubes keeping him alive.

Powell sat by Williams side for over a week. Doctors explained that they didn’t think he’d make it. On July 29, 2018, Powell finally relented and gave consent to have life support terminated.

It was later, when the family was planning the funeral, that they received a call.

Williams was the wrong man.

Powell had called her family to see Williams before he passed. Her sister didn’t think it was their brother.

Not initially. After explaining that his face was swollen, she saw the resemblance and agreed.

Perhaps because of this, when Powell gave consent to terminate life support, she also requested an autopsy. Less than a month later, it was performed and they found that it was not Fredrick Williams, but a man named Freddy Clarence Williams.

At the same time all this was happening, the real Fredrick Williams was locked up at Rikers Island. He had been detained on an assault charge on July 1st.

Powell is now suing the hospital for the mix up, seeking damages for severe emotional harm.

The hospital has commented stating to USA Today,

“We don’t believe the lawsuit has any merit.”

Powell is distraught for the man who died. At the time of writing, the family for the deceased man has not been identified. Whether that’s due to confidentiality laws for the hospital or because they haven’t been identified yet remains to be seen.

Since the incident, Powell has been to see her brother in prison, and they’ve settled the matter of her pulling the plug.

Williams said in an interview with the New York Post:

“The doctors told her they couldn’t do anything. I’m not mad at her.”

However, the hospital was not spared his wrath:

“How could the hospital do something like that? Look what they put my family through.”

The story has people debating who was in the wrong.

Powell has tried to get information on the deceased Freddy Clarence Williams to send his family her condolences, but the medical examiner’s office denied her request citing ‘privacy concerns’.

“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.”

When her lawyer tried to get information or have the hospital perform an investigation, they declined.

“The representatives [at the hospital] basically spit in my face. This is beyond reckless conduct. I requested an investigation. Nothing more. An apology would have been nice.”

Powell’s lawsuit is requesting unspecified damages for the trauma she endured.

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Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.