spaceSpace and Physics

Leaked Documents Reveal $6 Million Lawsuit Around Neil Armstrong's Death


Neil Armstrong, on the moon. NASA on The Commons @ Flickr Commons

Neil Armstrong died aged 82 in a Cincinnati hospital after receiving heart surgery in 2012.

Now – 50 years to the month Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon – new details surrounding his death have come to light. Documents relayed to The New York Times reveal a lawsuit that followed what his family has called incompetent post-surgical care, which they say led to his death.


Armstrong died from complications arising from a bypass surgery he underwent in August 2012. While at first, he appeared to be making a good recovery – his wife told journalists he was "amazingly resilient" and walking – the documents show the removal of wires from a temporary pacemaker triggered internal bleeding. Doctors took Armstrong to a catheterization lab and drained some blood from the heart before moving him to an operating room.

He died around a week later. At the time, his family said it was due to "complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures." Two years later, an email dated July 2014 arrived in the hospital's lawyer's inbox. Its sender was Wendy R. Armstrong, lawyer and wife of Mark Armstrong.

Wendy told the lawyers that Mark and his brother Rick (Armstrong's two sons) would be attending an event celebrating the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing that was expected to receive national news coverage. 

"Rick and Mark have been solicited by several book writers and filmmakers for ‘information about Neil that no one already knows,'" Wendy wrote, implying the hospital could be publicly criticized if they failed to reach a quick settlement.


Though she requested $7 million, the final agreement was $6 million on the proviso the complaints and settlement remained secret. Of that sum, court records show that $5.2 million was split between Rick and Mark, $250,000 was given to Armstrong's siblings (Dean Armstrong and June Hoffman), and $24,000 to his six grandchildren. According to The New York Times, Armstrong's widow Carol did not participate, telling journalists "I wasn't part of it," adding, "I want that for the record."

An anonymous sender mailed The New York Times 93 pages of documents relating to Armstrong's care and the following lawsuit, some of which can be found on the probate court's website. The bundle includes statements from medical professionals for both sides and an unsigned note from the sender explaining how they hoped the exposure could save lives.

According to the grandchildren's lawyer, Bertha G. Helmick, the settlement could be reversed if its terms became public. The New York Times say they do not have the full settlement.

[H/T: The New York Times]


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