CHICAGO — A group of Chicago sisters made funeral arrangements for a man they thought was their deceased brother.
They were told he died after they’d made a series of medical decisions for him in the hospital.
Then, they learned he was not their brother at all.
On May 13, Rosie Brooks said she got a phone call no one ever wants to receive, WBBM reports.
“She identified herself as Jennifer from Mercy Hospital,” Brooks said. “She was a social worker. She was looking for relatives of Alfonso Bennett, and I told her that was my brother. Well she said he was here in ICU.”
Brooks rushed to the hospital with her sister, Brenda Bennett-Johnson.
“They had him on a ventilator, and they had a tube in his mouth,” Brooks said.
The sisters looked at the man, who was brought in as a “John Doe.” Brooks said they told them they couldn’t identify the man as their brother.
“They kept saying, ‘CPD identified this person as our brother’,” Johnson said.
Brooks said the hospital staff said the man had been beaten badly, especially in the face.
He was found without ID and naked on April 29. Their brother has a background and is rarely in touch with his four sisters.
Bennett-Johnson said a nurse told her police identified him through mugshots and not fingerprints because of budget cuts.
“You don’t identify a person through a mugshot versus fingerprints,” Johnson said. “Fingerprints carry everything.”
The sisters said the man responded to commands by raising his hand, but he never opened his eyes. He eventually started to languish.
The sisters signed papers to take him off of a ventilator and gave permission for doctors to perform a tracheotomy. He went into hospice.
“Within minutes, he was ice cold,” Johnson said.
The sisters purchased a casket and made funeral arrangements. Around the same time, they received a phone call from one of their other sisters. The sister said their brother was alive and well and had just walked through her front door.
“It’s sad it happened like that,” Johnson said. “If it was our brother, and we had to go through that, that would have been a different thing. But we made all kinds of decisions on someone who wasn’t our family.”
The sisters said the man they’d been caring for was later identified at the morgue through fingerprints. They said police are now looking for his relatives.
“I can’t conceive of how a budgetary issue would drive whether or not a person who was a John Doe would be fingerprinted before they’re taken off of life support. If that’s the situation, something’s got to be done,” said the family’s lawyer, Cannon Lambert Sr.
A spokesperson from the hospital said the family positively identified the man. Police reportedly do not take fingerprints unless someone commits a crime or when they go to the morgue.