John Ritter died of an aortic aneurysm in 2003. His family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against various health care providers. It now appears that the case has been settled.
I met John Ritter in New York 5 or 6 years ago. I went to a play and at the end the cast came back onto the stage and auctioned off a prop to raise money for an AIDS group. I “won” the auction and got to go backstage, meet the cast (including Henry Winkler), get photos, etc. It was a good deal of fun.
The reason for that little story is this: John Ritter could not have been more gracious. He spent part of his life in Nashville (his dad was country music legend Tex Ritter), and actually lived in a beautiful house about 4 miles away from my house. We talked about Nashville and he told me what wonderful memories he had of my adoptive home. I could tell that he was a kind, compassionate man.
I tell you that to say this: John Ritter was no different than most of the other 98,000 people who die as a result of medical negligence each year in this country, most of whom never see a lawyer much less win a case by settlement or verdict. His fame brought his death to the front pages and perhaps even helped bring his case to a settlement, but – like all us – he had to rely on the competence and attentiveness of the health care industry at a critical state in his life. That industry failed him, not intentionally, probably not even recklessly. That industry, which does so much good for so many every day, must be held accountable when it makes errors that harm or result in death. It is does not deserve special treatment because of the good it does, anymore than does the trucking industry (which brings us food, medicine, clothes and so much more every day of our lives) deserves special treatment when it does harm.
I applaud John Ritter’s family for having the courage to speak out about his death and for going through the trauma of this litigation. May they now truly begin to heal.