Two Chicago families are suing the city and Mercy Hospital after becoming embroiled in a hospital identity mix-up.
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the relatives of Alfonso Bennett and Elisha Brittman after the former's two sisters agreed to end life support for a man they were told by authorities was their brother.
Shockingly, the real sibling turned up alive and well, Daily Mail reports.
Now, the embattled families are accusing the hospital and city of negligence and inflicting emotional stress. The plaintiffs are reportedly seeking over $50,000 from each defendant. According to the families, the mishap could have been easily avoided if the patient had been properly ID'd and fingerprinted at the time he was admitted to hospital.
Reports said one of the sisters, Rosie Brooks, received a call from Mercy Hospital in Chicago on May 13 informing her that her brother Bennett was in intensive care. The man had allegedly been found naked on the streets and badly hit on the face on the city's South Side on April 29. Responding officers were unable to find an ID on his person.
As soon as they heard the news, Brooks took her sister Brenda Bennett-Johnson to the hospital to check up on their "sibling."
Speaking to WBBM-TV, Brooks said, "They had him on the ventilator, and they had a tube in his mouth."
Authorities told the hospital that the man on life support was Bennett, without any substantial proof. On the other hand, the sisters weren't sure that was him.
"They kept saying CPD identified this person as our brother," Bennett-Johnson said.
The sisters then learned from a nurse that police had identified the man as Alfonso Bennett using prior mugshots as he had a criminal record. Police added that owing to budget cuts, they were unable to use fingerprint analysis to definitively ID the man.
"You don’t identify a person through a mugshot versus fingerprints," Bennett-Johnson said. "Fingerprints carries everything."
That said, the man on life support was responding to questions by raising his hand. However, he never opened his eyes. When the sisters learned his condition was rapidly deteriorating, they allowed the hospital to take him off life support.
Furthermore, they also agreed to let doctors perform a tracheotomy - a procedure to puncture the windpipe to relieve an obstruction to breathing - before he was placed in hospice care. "Within minutes he was ice cold," Bennett-Johnson said.
The sisters mourned and made funeral arrangements after his death. They bought a suit and a casket to prepare for the burial, all the while thinking it was their brother who had passed on.
But they received a phone call from one of their sisters sometime before the funeral.
"She called my sister Yolanda to say, 'It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!'" said Brooks. "'Brenda! Brenda! It’s Alfonso! It’s Alfonso!' I said, 'You’re kidding!'
"I could have almost had a heart attack," Bennett-Johnson said. They later learned Bennett was alive and well and was only visiting with one of his sisters when he was reported missing.
"It’s sad that it happened like that," Bennett-Johnson said. "If it was our brother and we had to go through that, that would have been a different thing. We made all kinds of decisions on someone that wasn’t our family."
Having said that, the man who was removed from life support was later identified via fingerprint analysis as Brittman, 69.
However, Mercy Hospital responded to a request for comment saying the family "did identify this patient as their brother."