On July 20, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. Sadly, one person not alive for this celebration was Neil Armstrong, the commander of Apollo 11 and the first man to actually set foot on the moon. Armstrong passed away on August 7, 2012, after undergoing bypass surgery at Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital outside of Cincinnati.

Now, seven years after his death, new questions have emerged in the press as to what exactly happened during Armstrong’s final days. An unknown person sent medical and legal documents related to Armstrong’s care at Mercy Health to the New York Times and the Cincinnati Enquirer. According to the Times, it received 93 pages of documents accompanied by an unsigned note that said “the sender hoped the information would save other lives.”

The documents detailed how after performing tests on Armstrong, doctors at the Fairfield hospital decided to perform a quadruple bypass procedure. This required the doctors to implant temporary wires in Armstrong to “help pace his heartbeat,” the Times explained. However, when a nurse later removed these temporary wires, the documents said Armstrong “began to bleed internally and his blood pressure dropped.”

Doctors then moved Armstrong to a catheterization lab, which confirmed there was “significant and rapid bleeding.” Although doctors subsequently moved Armstrong to an operating room, the Times said it was not clear from the records it reviewed “what doctors may have done there, but [Armstrong] appears to have lingered for a week or longer before dying.”

Critically, the documents leaked to the press included expert medical reports prepared in preparation for a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit from Armstrong’s family. Dr. Joseph Bavaria, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania retained by the family, said the Fairfield doctors’ “decision to go to the cath lab was THE major error” leading to Armstrong’s death. In Bavaria’s opinion, doctors should have taken Armstrong directly to the operating room.

Another expert retained by Fairfield, Dr. Richard Salzano, said the staff’s decision to go to the cath lab first was “defensive” but “certainly riskier than taking the patient to the OR.”

Hospital Reportedly Settled for $6 Million, Confidentiality Agreement

The Armstrong family’s lawsuit never made it to court. The family signed a confidential settlement worth $6 million, according to the documents reviewed by the Times and the Enquirer. One condition of the settlement was that the family could not discuss what happened publicly. And in fact, members of the family declined to comment for either the Times or Enquirer stories, stating they were under “nondisclosure agreements.”

Indeed, when it comes to medical malpractice, hospitals and doctors often prioritize keeping things quiet and out of the press. This is why you must always think carefully before agreeing to settle a malpractice or wrongful death claim. You are not only foregoing your right to sue–you may be also agreeing to remain silent forever about the provider’s negligent care.

Before you take such a drastic (and potentially irrevocable) step, you need to speak with a qualified Cleveland medical malpractice attorney who can fully advise you of your rights. Call Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 to schedule a consultation with a member of our Cleveland medical malpractice team today.

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