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Woman mistakenly takes stranger off life support, thinking it was her brother. He dies, and now she’s the one suing.
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Woman mistakenly takes stranger off life support, thinking it was her brother. He dies, and now she’s the one suing.

What a mistake!

Shirell Powell, a New York woman, is suing a Bronx hospital after she gave doctors approval to stop a man's life support, according to a Monday report by The Associated Press.

The hospital reportedly misidentified the man as Powell's brother.

What are the details?

Powell is suing the hospital as a result of the mistaken identity, saying that she and other family members were placed under undue stress and severe emotional harm for more than a month as a result of the incident, which occurred on July 15.

Powell was even making funeral arrangements for the stranger — who had the same name as Powell's brother; Frederick Williams — when she discovered that the man in question was not her brother.

The man in question had reportedly suffered a drug overdose and was brain dead.

"That is my baby brother, so it was really hurtful," Powell said. "I was worried, hurt, crying, screaming, calling everybody. It was a horrible feeling."

According to Powell's lawsuit, Freddy Clarence Williams was admitted to St. Barnabas Hospital, unconscious, after a drug overdose. The hospital reported that the man had suffered irreversible brain damage as a result of the overdose.

Operating under bad information, hospital officials contacted Powell as the next of kin. She arrived at the hospital and found the man — who she was told was her brother — with "a tube in his mouth and a swollen appearance," according to the report.

What happened when the sibling came?

Another sibling visited the hospital and pointed out a problem.

"She walked up into the room and said, 'That is not my brother,'" Powell said, but argued that the man resembled her brother closely enough that the family took the hospital's word at face value.

Powell said that one of her nieces came to say goodbye to who she believed to be her father.

"She was hysterical," Powell said. "She was holding his hand, kissing him, crying."

Powell signed off for doctors to withdraw life support two weeks later on July 29. The city medical examiner did not discover the misidentification until Aug. 16.

So, where was her brother?

As it turned out, Powell's brother was not dead, but incarcerated in a city jail.

"I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn't even know," Powell said. "I gave consent."

Alexander Dudelson, a lawyer for Powell, said that neither the hospital nor the medical examiner would tell him anything about the man who'd passed away after suffering the overdose.

Powell has since visited her brother and spoken to him over the phone.

Powell said that when she explained to him that she'd unwittingly given the approval to pull the plug on the man's life support, her brother responded by asking, "'You were going to kill me?'"

"I explained to him, once you're brain dead, there is nothing to do," she said.

Williams said that he was disappointed in the hospital's misidentification.

"How could the hospital do something like that? Look what they put my family through," he said.

Steven Clark, a spokesperson for St. Barnabas Hospital, said that Powell's lawsuit was without merit.

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