Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, January 31, 2019

New York City Woman Sues Hospital After Reported Confusion Over End of Life Support

HospitalShirell Powell is suing St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx after she authorized doctors to cut off the life support of a man she was led to believe was her brother. In fact it was another man with the same name, but Powell and her family had already started to grieve the lost of their family member.

Freddy Clarence Williams was admitted to the hospital on July 15 after being found unconscious with brain damage following a drug overdose. The staff searched their records and saw that a Frederick Williams had been a previous patient and contacted that man's next of kin. Though there were questions of identity by another sibling, Powell said that it was hard to determine if the man was positively her brother because the man laying on the hospital bed had a tube in his mouth and his face was severely swollen.

The family eventually decided that the man's facial features were similar enough that it was their loved one, even having on of their brother's teenage daughters come to the hospital to say goodbye. Powell consented to ending the man's life support on July 29, and she was told a month later by the medical examiner that there had been a mistake of identity. 

The real Frederick Williams was alive and in jail, which the family had not known at the time. Powell is seeking an unspecified amount of compensation for severe emotional harm.

See Paulina Dedaj, New York City Woman Sues Hospital After Reported Confusion Over End of Life Support, Fox News, January 30, 2019.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2019/01/new-york-city-woman-sues-hospital-after-reported-confusion-over-end-of-life-support.html

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