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Armstrong Wrongful Death Settlement Highlights Patients' Need to Speak Up

a footprint on the surface of the moon
By Andrew Leonatti on July 26, 2019

The 2012 death of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong shocked the nation. Although he was 82 years old, early news reports indicated he was recovering well after heart surgery. His death a few weeks later from complications caused an outpouring of support and tributes to the first man on the moon.

This month’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing has led to renewed tributes. It also brought news that the Armstrong family secretly negotiated a $6 million wrongful death settlement with the Cincinnati hospital caring for Armstrong at the time of his death.

Armstrong died after temporary wires for a pacemaker were removed, causing him to bleed internally. The family alleges that Armstrong underwent heart bypass surgery prematurely (thus the need for the temporary pacemaker), and that he received incompetent care after he began to bleed internally.

Know How to Speak Up

Armstrong’s family likely leveraged the hospital’s fear of being known as the facility responsible for the death of an American icon for a large settlement. And in his case, doctors may have indeed needed to act quickly to attempt to save his life.

Still, the episode provides valuable learning opportunities for others.

In many medical malpractice cases, or just stories about people receiving poor medical care, patients say that the doctor and nurses would not listen to them. Research shows that people are often scared speak up to doctors and nurses, essentially because they do not want to offend the experts.

It is important to remember, though, that you are your own best advocate. As a patient, you have the right to:

  • Seek a second opinion
  • Ask questions about potential complications of treatment
  • Discuss multiple options for treatment
  • Withhold your consent to undergo a procedure or treatment

Look Out for Older Relatives

It’s hard to envision Neil Armstrong being unable to speak up for himself. But many elderly patients experience this. Think of elderly relatives in your own life who “don’t want to be a bother.” One thing patients also have the right to do is designate a loved one to speak on their behalf.

If you have aging parents, grandparents, or other loved ones, now may be the time to start to have that conversation with them about their wishes for different types of treatment they may want to receive. A confident advocate who can speak up for a patient may be able to provide a doctor with crucial information that can help prevent mistakes or malpractice. It is one seemingly small step that could make a giant difference in someone’s life.

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