Misidentified man restrained, nearly operated on at hospital

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by WRC

KING5.com

Posted on September 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

A Maryland man claims he was assaulted when he tried to leave Prince George's Hospital after he was told he was scheduled for a surgery he didn't need.

Joseph Wheeler is suing the hospital and its security contractor, Broadway Services, for almost $13 million.

The retired sheriff's corporal remembers June 23 like it was yesterday.

After a car accident in St. Mary's County he was flown to Prince George's Hospital for what seemed to him to be relatively minor injuries.

"Last thing the doctor came in and said, 'You sustained a little injury to the head. We're worried about a possible concussion. We're going to keep you here for 24 hours,'" Wheeler said.

When he woke up the next day in his hospital bed and asked for food, he was told no and that he was slated to have a potentially cancerous mass removed from his chest, Wheeler said.

"At that time, I'm starting to get worried," he said. "I'm like, 'I'm here for an accident. Never have I been diagnosed with any type of cancer.'"

His wife ran to the nurse when they realized the ID bracelet the hospital put on her husband was for somebody else, Wheeler said.

"She says he's scheduled for surgery," Ann Wheeler said. "I said, 'No ma'am.' I said, 'He's not scheduled for surgery.' I said, 'The bracelet is misidentified. It has the wrong information on it.'"

Inside his hospital room, Wheeler dressed, ripped the I.V. from his arm and started to leave rather than endure a surgery he didn't need, he said.

Then the nurse called security and things went from confusing to frightening, he said.

"The one grabbed me and spun me around and slung me into the wall," Wheeler said.

The guards not only restrained him, they started to curse and berate him, he said.

A lawsuit filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court says the guards then took Wheeler into an elevator, dropped him on the floor and continued the assault.

"One guy got down and started to knee me in the side," Wheeler said.

"He was taken to a hospital, which really should be a house of healing, and he got there and it turned into a house of horrors for him," said Bryan Dugan, Wheeler's attorney.

Wheeler was within his rights to try to leave the hospital, Dugan said.

Wheeler was allowed to go after an administrator intervened and had him sign a release, Dugan said.

An attorney for Prince George's Hospital Center said they don't comment on pending litigation and they look forward to defending their case in court.

Broadway Services, the security company, didn't comment.

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