CHICAGO (CNN) — A group of Chicago sisters made funeral arrangments for a man they thought was their deceased brother.
He died after they had made a series of medical decisions for him in the hospital. Then, they learned the John Doe was not their brother at all.
On May 13, Rosie Brooks says she got a phone call no one ever wants to receive.
“She identified herself as Jennifer, from Mercy Hospital, 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’s here in ICU,” Brooks said.
Brooks rushed to Mercy Hospital with her sister, Brenda Bennett-Johnson.
“They had him on a ventilator and they had a tube in his mouth,” Brooks said.
They both looked at the man in the hospital bed, brought in as a John Doe and said they could not identify this as their brother.
“They kept saying, ‘CPD identified this person as our brother,'” Bennett-Johnson said.
Brooks said the hospital staff said the man had been beaten badly, especially in the face. He was found near 47th and Wabash 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. Fingerprints carry everything.,” Bennett-Johnson said.
The sisters say the man responded to commands by raising his hand but never opened his eyes. Soon, he started to languish.
The sisters signed papers to take him off a ventilator and gave permission for doctors to perform a tracheotomy. He went into hospice and Bennett-Johnson was with him.
“Within minutes, he was ice cold,” Bennett-Johnson said.
They purchased a casket, a suit, and made funeral arrangements. Around the same time, they received a phone call from one of their other sisters.
“Brenda! Brenda! It’s Alfonso! It’s Alfonso! It’s Alfonso. I said, ‘You’re kidding!’ I almost had a heart attack,” Bennett-Johnson said.
Alfonso Bennett was alive and well and had just walked through her front door.
“It’s sad 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. But we made all kinds of decisions on someone that wasn’t our family.”
The sisters say the man they’d been caring for was later identified at the morgue through fingerprints. They say 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,” said family attorney Cannon Lamber. “If that’s the situation, something’s got to be done.”
A spokesperson from the hospital says the family did positively identify the man. Police reportedly do not take fingerprints unless someone commits a crime or when they go to the morgue.