Two Chicago families who became embroiled in a hospital identity mix-up are suing Chicago city and Mercy Hospital.
The relatives of Alfonso Bennett and Elisha Brittman have taken out a wrongful death lawsuit after two sisters agreed to end life support for a man they were told by police was their brother – only for their real sibling to turn up alive and well.
They are accusing the hospital and city of negligence and inflicting emotional stress, with the plaintiffs seeking more than $50,000 from each defendant.
The relatives of Alfonso Bennett (pictured) and Elisha Brittman have taken out a wrongful death lawsuit after two sisters agreed to end life support for a man they were told by police was their brother – only for their real sibling to turn up alive and well
The man who had passed away was later correctly identified as Elisha Brittman, 69 (pictured)
Brenda Bennett-Johnson (left) and her sister, Rosie Brooks (right), said hospital staff told them that police used old mug shots to determine that the man on life support was indeed their brother
The families say the mix-up could have been avoided if Mr Brittman had been properly fingerprinted when he was admitted to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
On May 13, Rosie Brooks received a phone call from Mercy Hospital in Chicago informing her that her brother, Alfonso Bennett, was in intensive care.
The man had been found naked on the streets on city’s South Side on April 29 and was badly beaten, particularly in the face. He did not have ID.
Brooks and her sister, Brenda Bennett-Johnson, went to the hospital to check up on their ‘sibling’.
‘They had him on the ventilator, and they had a tube in his mouth,’ Brooks told
Chicago Police informed the hospital that the man on life support was Alfonso Bennett, but the sisters weren’t so sure.
‘They kept saying CPD identified this person as our brother,’ Bennett-Johnson said.
A nurse told the sisters that police identified the man as Alfonso Bennett, who had a criminal record, using prior mugshots.
Police told the hospital that they did not use fingerprint to definitively ID the man because of budget cuts.
‘You don’t identify a person through a mugshot versus fingerprints,’ Bennett-Johnson said.
‘Fingerprints carries everything.’
The man on life support was responding to commands by raising his hand. But he never opened his eyes.
When it became apparent that his condition was deteriorating, the sisters agreed to allow the hospital to take him off life support.
They also agreed to let doctors perform a tracheotomy – an incision in the windpipe made to relieve an obstruction to breathing.
Soon afterward, the man was placed in hospice care.
‘Within minutes he was ice cold,’ Bennett-Johnson said.
After he died, the sisters made funeral arrangements. They bought a suit and a casket to prepare for the burial of the man they were told was their brother.
Sometime before the funeral, they received a phone call from one of their sisters.
‘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!’
The man who was eventually taken off life support (above) was found badly beaten on the streets on Chicago’s South Side in late April. He was eventually taken off life support and placed into hospice before he died
‘I could have almost had a heart attack,’ Bennett-Johnson said.
Alfonso Bennett was alive and well. He had just paid one of his sisters a visit.
‘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.’
The man who had passed away was later correctly identified as Elisha Brittman, 69.
When asked to comment, Mercy Hospital said: ‘The family did identify this patient as their brother.’