Lawsuit: Hospital let NYC woman take wrong man off life support

After agonizing for several days last July, a New York City woman authorized doctors to end life support for her dying brother.

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The problem was the man in the Bronx hospital was not Shirell Powell's brother, but a man with a similar name, The Washington Post reported. According to a lawsuit Powell filed Jan. 18, Freddy Clarence Williams was the man in the hospital; Frederick Williams, her brother, was alive and locked up in a New York City jail, according to the Post.

The lawsuit, filed in Bronx Supreme Court against St. Barnabas Hospital, is seeking unspecified damages. The suit alleges the hospital admitted Freddy Clarence Williams under the patient profile of Frederick Williams, a former patient and the plaintiff's brother.

The error was not discovered until the New York City medical examiner’s office performed an autopsy, the Post reported.

"I nearly fainted because I killed somebody that I didn't even know. I gave consent," Powell, 48, told the New York Post. "I was like, 'Where is my brother? What is going on?' I was devastated."

A spokesman for St. Barnabas could not be reached for comment Monday, The Washington Post reported.

According to New York Department of Correction records, Powell's brother was arrested July 1, 2018, on a misdemeanor assault charge, The Washington Post reported. Frederick Williams was being held on Rikers Island, and neither Powell nor other family members were aware of his arrest, the newspaper reported.

The lawsuit alleges that on July 15, a doctor at St. Barnabas Hospital negligently advised Powell that her brother had been admitted to the facility in an unconscious state. Two days later, the doctor advised Powell that the man had suffered severe brain damage from a narcotics overdose, the suit alleges.

Powell remained with the man she believed to be her brother until July 29, when she authorized the hospital to end his life support, the lawsuit alleges. Freddy Clarence Williams died later that day.

After an investigation, on Aug. 16, the medical examiner's office identified the body as that of Freddy Clarence Williams, The Washington Post reported.

Powell said she tried to get information about Freddy Clarence Williams from the medical examiner so she could send condolences, but she was denied, The Washington Post reported.

As for Frederick Williams, he remains at Rikers Island and will appear in court Thursday, the newspaper reported.

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