The death of Neil Armstrong, a secret and $ 6 million
When Neil Armstrong died in August 2012, it was officially a complication after a cardiovascular operation, but seven years later, the more troubled circumstances of his death are beginning to be discovered.
The New York Times reported on Tuesday that it received an anonymous 93 pages of documents revealing a dispute between the family of the most famous astronaut in history and the small hospital where he was treated and operated in Ohio. The local Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper has also received documents.
The family has, according to the newspapers, threatened to publicly accuse the hospital of medical malpractice. An amicable agreement was finally found to avoid a scandal, the hospital pouring six million dollars, including five to his two sons, Rick and Mark, in exchange for their silence.
In a July 2014 email, Mark’s wife, Wendy, a lawyer, threatened to make the case public during the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
“If this case became public, the cost to your client’s reputation would be much higher than that imposed by any popular jury,” she wrote, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“No institution wants to be associated, even by far, with the death of one of the greatest American heroes,” argues the lawyer representing the grandchildren of Armstrong, Bertha Helmick, according to the Times.
But Armstrong’s widow and second wife, Carol, said she refused to join the deal.
The case concerns the decision of the Fairfield Hospital in Ohio, now a member of the Bon Secours Mercy Health hospital group, of not immediately transferring Armstrong to the operating room when he suffered from internal bleeding. , several days after a coronary bypass. The initial decision to operate was also questioned.
A hospital spokeswoman told the Inquirer that the publication of the details was “very disappointing”.
Medical malpractice settlements are commonplace in the United States: only 5% of cases end up in court, according to Michelle Mello, a law professor at Stanford; hospitals are insuring against this risk.
But according to her, the highest settlement in 2018, for the death of a patient over 80, was $ 1.49 million, the median being $ 145,000, she told AFP.
The case illustrates the lucrative value of the name Armstrong, and more generally astronauts of the great era.
When Armstrong’s sons sold thousands of their father’s personal items at three recent auctions, the proceeds exceeded $ 12 million, according to Heritage Auctions.
They said in an interview with AFP in New York last year, want to create a foundation and give a fraction of the proceeds to charities.
Other astronauts have capitalized on their lunar experience.
Buzz Aldrin, who has followed Armstrong on the Moon, is paid to attend conferences at an estimated rate of $ 50,000-75,000 through the website speaking.com.
“He asks for a private jet and a VIP accommodation, and he gets them, because everyone wants to meet Buzz Aldrin,” says AFP Francis French, author of books on the history of space and especially on the men of Apollo 15, sanctioned by NASA for attempting to earn money without authorization through the sale of stamped envelopes transported to the moon.
According to Francis French, the fact that former astronauts, who had only a military retreat or civil servant, enrich themselves in their post-Nasa career was neither secret nor frowned upon.
He adds that he knows the Armstrong family, which he says is not interested in money.
One of the four astronauts still alive to walk on the moon, Charlie Duke, asked AFP 5,000 dollars in April for an interview.
“There is a market, they charge what they can,” John Logsdon, founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University told AFP in May. “They risked their lives, I do not see anything wrong with them benefiting.”
Neil Armstrong has chosen a life more discreet and less rewarding. If he used his notoriety, it was mainly for the benefit of his old university, Purdue.
Thanks to a major fundraising campaign he co-chaired in the 1990s, Purdue raised $ 250 million, the university told AFP.