Last Saturday, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and the iconic words astronaut Neil Armstrong spoke during this historical event. Armstrong’s name has been in the news again this week, but for a different reason.
A sealed settlement leaked to the New York Times reveals that a hospital has paid the estate of Mr. Armstrong six million dollars as part of a confidential agreement to settle allegations that post-surgical complications led to his death seven years ago.
Armstrong passed away after undergoing bypass surgery in a Cincinnati hospital. At first, the procedure appeared to be a success. The astronaut’s wife told The Associated Press afterward that he was “amazingly resilient” and was walking in the corridor. But after the wires of a temporary pacemaker were removed, he began to bleed into the membrane surrounding the heart, leading to a series of medical issues, which then resulted in his death on August 25, 2012.
Two of Armstrong’s sons contacted Mercy Health-Fairfield hospital after his death, claiming that the post-surgical care that he received was inadequate and that this care ultimately led to their father’s death. The hospital and the Armstrongs conducted negotiations, attempting to reach a settlement agreement.
An unknown sender mailed 93 pages of documents related to the case, including documents related to Armstrong’s treatment and the legal case and reports by medical experts, to the New York Times, which verified the documents before publishing an article about the settlement.
The documents present a detailed account of what occurred after heart surgery. Doctors implanted temporary wires to help pace the heart as Mr. Armstrong recovered from the bypass, a standard part of the procedure. However, when these wires were removed by nurses, he began to bleed internally and experienced a drop in blood pressure. At this point, he was taken to the hospital’s catheterization lab. In the lab, an echocardiogram showed”significant and rapid bleeding.” Doctors drained some blood from his heart, and Armstrong was moved from the catheterization lab to an operating room. The medical treatment from this point to his death, over a week later, is unclear.
The focus of the allegations of improper care centered on the decision to bring Mr. Armstrong to the catheterization lab rather than directly to an operating room when the complications were first noticed. The expert witness for the Armstrong family wrote: “The decision to go to the cath lab was THE major error.” An expert who reviewed the case for the hospital stated that the decision to bring Mr. Armstrong to the catheterization lab was “defensible” but “certainly riskier than taking the patient to the O.R.”
A motion was made to seal the settlement in September 2014. The hospital maintained that it stood by the treatment provided. “However, the hospital, on behalf of itself and the healthcare providers, agreed to a confidential settlement of $6 million to avoid the publicity the estate might have initiated on behalf of certain members of the family if settlement had not been reached.”