Was Neil Armstrong’s death due to a medical error?

The death of astronaut Neil Armstrong in 2012 after heart surgery may have occurred because of incompetent post-surgical care, according to recent news reports.

Armstrong’s family received a $6 million confidential settlement in 2014 from Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital in Cincinnati, where the surgery was performed, the New York Times reported on July 23, 2019. The Times published the story after being mailed information about the settlement from an unknown sender.

After emergency bypass surgery at Fairfield, doctors implanted temporary wires to help pace Armstrong’s heartbeat, but when the wires were removed, he began to bleed internally and his blood pressure dropped. He was first taken to the hospital’s catheterization lab, then to the operating room. He died about a week later.

Experts who reviewed the case in 2014 questioned why Armstrong was taken to the catheterization lab instead of the operating room.

Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, who was not involved in the case, reviewed the experts’ reports for the Times. “If someone has dropped their blood pressure substantially and this is a code blue, that means they are having life-threatening bleeding,” he said. “I don’t totally understand why they went to the cath lab.”

Jha also questioned whether it was necessary to perform emergency bypass surgery on Armstrong. “It feels to me like his death was wholly preventable,” he said.

Read the New York Times article: Neil Armstrong’s Death, and a Stormy, Secret $6 Million Settlement