Wrongdoers Left Unaccountable In Secret Neil Armstrong Settlement

medical malpractice

 Neil Armstrong’s Secret “Hush” Money Settlement as Reported by The New York Times

Five years ago, at Mercy Health – Fairfield, a community hospital located in Cincinnati, retired American astronaut Neil Armstrong underwent a heart surgery with a fatal outcome. On July 23, 2019, around the same time media outlets celebrated the American astronaut’s 50th-anniversary moon walk, The New York Times published a story stating that after Mr. Armstrong died, his family threatened legal action against the hospital believing medical negligence was the cause. Armstrong’s two sons pointed blame at incompetent post-surgical care for taking their father’s life. The medical dispute was followed by a 2014 secret settlement – worth millions.

Legal documents (some now publicly available), along with a pleading personal note from the anonymous sender, was sent anonymously to The New York Times in 2019. The paperwork showed the hospital privately paid the Armstrong family $6 million to settle the family’s dispute over his cause of death and avoid the public shaming of the hospital’s wrongdoing. Several medical reports and analysis of when and how any medical mistakes impacted Mr. Armstrong’s death were also discovered, in which hospital officials used the pseudonym “Ned Anderson” for Mr. Armstrong after being fearful of any publicity surrounding his wrongful death.

Medical Reviews Highlight Mistakes in Armstrong’s Post-Surgery Care

The newspaper provided the summaries of three expert medical reviews sent by the source, as well as a recap of nearly 100 pages of documents outlining the public figure’s botched treatment. The expert reviews of Mr. Armstrong’s medical records were prepared at the request of several family members but also by the hospital’s lawyers. The timelines described what happened after his admittance with symptoms of heart disease up until his death on August 25, 2012.

As reported by The New York Times:

  • In early August 2012, after a series of tests, it was decided that Mr. Armstrong would require immediate bypass surgery.
  • After surgery, he was reported by his wife to be recovering well and as “amazingly resilient” and able to walk.
  • Post-surgery problems began when nurses removed the wires for a temporary pacemaker used to assist in his recovery.
  • It was discovered that the pacemaker had triggered bleeding into the membrane surrounding the heart and a drop in his blood pressure.
  • He was taken to the hospital’s catheterization lab, where an echocardiogram showed, in one expert’s words, “significant and rapid bleeding.”
  • At the catheterization lab, doctors drained blood from Mr. Armstrong’s heart.
  • Armstrong was then moved from the catheterization lab to an operating room.
  • The records do not make clear what doctors may have operated on, but he appears to have lingered for a week or longer before dying on August 25.
  • His family announced at the time that the cause of death was “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.”

In the treatment evaluation reports, one doctor noted, “The decision to go to the cath lab was THE major error.” A cardiothoracic surgeon at Yale Medical Center said the catheterization lab decision was “defensible” but “certainly riskier than taking the patient to the O.R.”

A Hospital’s Reputation Becomes Threatened

Nearly two years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, in July 2014, the wife of one of Mr. Armstrong’s sons (who is also a lawyer) sent a threatening email to Mercy Health attorneys. The context of the email as described by the newspaper’s report, “noted that Mark and his brother, Rick, would soon be traveling to Florida to speak at a ceremony marking the 45th-anniversary of the first moon landing.”

A hospital lawyer responded to the Armstrong family lawyer stating: “Do Mark and Rick intend to discuss the wrongful death claim at the Kennedy Space Center if no settlement is reached by Friday, July 18, 2014?”

In response, the wife of Armstrong’s son said that information about her father-in-law’s hospital treatment and death might prove very lucrative to her husband and brother-in-law, according to The New York Times. The 45th-anniversary gathering was to take place on Monday, July 21, 2014.

Today, Hamilton County probate court records show a settlement of nearly $6 million for Mr. Armstrong’s sons, Mark and Rick, including funds directed to other members of the astronaut’s family but excluding Mr. Armstrong’s widow. The settlement was sealed in September 2014.

“Hush” Money Is Designed to Prevent a Public Trial but Also Leaves Hospitals Unaccountable for Causing Preventable Mistakes

Health care has many complex iterations and requires a watchful eye for error, and Mr. Armstrong’s situation proves so many related truths.

  1. No one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even pubic figures who may have access to the best care and medical resources.
  2. Secret settlement money can reduce the potential for a case to bring negative publicity via a public trial, but even so, information can be leaked and shared after.

If you or a loved one were injured or killed due to a medical mistake, a malpractice lawyer can help investigate who was responsible and help create a better chance to receive the compensation you deserve. Having your own lawyer will be more beneficial than accepting a quiet settlement on your own, even if pressured by a hospital legal team to agree to a quick, lucrative sounding offer. Holding hospitals accountable through a public trial may also help reduce medical errors that injure, disable, or takes the life from future patients.

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