Nearly seven years after astronaut Neil Armstrong’s death following coronary bypass surgery, and just days after the 50th anniversary of his historic walk on the moon, the New York Times on Tuesday reported an Ohio hospital paid Armstrong’s estate $6 million as part of a “secret” wrongful death settlement.
Armstrong’s estate — including his two sons, Mark and Rick — blamed Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital’s care for their 82-year-old father’s death in court documents the Times said it received from an unknown sender, as well as documents from the Hamilton County Probate Court in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“Some of the documents, though marked ‘filed under seal,’ are publicly available at the probate court’s website, confirming that the documents received by The Times are authentic,” the newspaper reported.
Several of Armstrong’s family members, including his sons and daughter-in-law, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
According to the Times, Armstrong was recovering after surgery at the Fairfield hospital in 2012, “but when nurses removed the wires for a temporary pacemaker, he began to bleed into the membrane surrounding the heart, leading to a cascade of problems that resulted in his death on Aug. 25.”
The Times referenced an email that Wendy R. Armstrong, who is both a lawyer and Mark’s wife, sent to the hospital’s lawyers in July of 2014 about how the brothers were heading to Florida for the 45th anniversary of her father-in-law’s moon landing.
“This event at Kennedy Space Center will receive national news coverage,” she wrote, according to the newspaper. “Rick and Mark have been solicited by several book writers and filmmakers for ‘information about Neil that no one already knows.’ ”
“The hospital and health care providers stand by the care they provided to Mr. Armstrong and deny that any malpractice occurred,” reads a motion to seal the settlement on Sept. 23, 2014. “However, the hospital, on behalf of itself and the health care providers, agreed to a confidential settlement of $6,000,000 to avoid the publicity of litigation that the Estate might have initiated on behalf of certain members of the family if settlement had not been reached. The terms of the settlement include a confidentiality requirement for all parties and a full release of the hospital and the health care providers.”
The nearly $5.2 million settlement reportedly went to 10 family members: Armstrong’s sons equally split the majority of the money, while $250,000 was given to his brother and sister, Dean A. Armstrong and June L. Hoffman, and $24,000 was provided to each of his six grandchildren, the Times reported.
His widow Carol, the executor of the estate, signed off on the settlement, the Times reported.
“I had no choice — it was either that or lose my job as executor,” Carol, who did not receive any of the money, told the Times.
The newspaper reported that Carol was “asked if that meant she had not approved of the claim against the hospital,” to which she replied, “I don’t think I can answer that,” suggesting that she had signed a confidentiality agreement.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Bon Secours Mercy Health — a Catholic hospital group to which Fairfield belongs — wrote that “our commitment to patient privacy and dignity is a responsibility we take very seriously, and we are unable to discuss any individual or his or her care. The public nature of these details is very disappointing — both for our ministry and the patient’s family who had wished to keep this legal matter private.”
Bon Secours Mercy Health added: “Our focus on advanced, high-quality, patient-centric care is a cornerstone of our ministry, and our commitment to our Mission is unwavering — we extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need, especially people who are poor, dying and underserved. This is our promise to every patient who comes through our doors.”
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures,” Armstrong’s family said in a statement after his death in 2012.
The statement described the astronaut as “our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” and also as “a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”