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John Ritter's Death - Not the Doctors' Fault
A jury in Glendale, CA has declared that a radiologist and cardiologist who treated actor John Ritter on the day he died in 2003, were not negligent and not responsible for his death. Ritter's widow, actress Amy Yasbeck had filed the wrongful death suit, claiming that the physicians were negligent in not diagnosing and treating Ritter's rare heart condition when he was brought to the emergency room on September 11, 2003.
For, many of us who grew up in the seventies, John Ritter was the lovable, yet clumsy, Jack Tripper on Three's Company. I know the show was dopey and the jokes were lame, but admit it, you watched it, too.
Ritter was, by far, the most talented member of the cast. After seven years as bumbling Tripper, it seemed to many of us that Ritter's career would be over. How could he ever be seen as any other character? Ritter's talent proved the skeptics wrong. He went on to star in the moderately successful sit-coms, Hooperman and Hearts Afire. He also starred in a number of films including Problem Child, Skin Deep, and Noises Off. These were mediocre comedies and not particularly big hits, but they kept Ritter's career moving forward. He also co-starred in the made-for-TV adaptation of Stephen King's IT in 1990. However, his most critical acclaim, and arguably his best performance, was as the gay store manager, Vaughan Cunningham in the film, Sling Blade, with Billy Bob Thornton. Ritter then provided the voice for Clifford the Big Red Dog in the animated series before his final sit-com, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter premiered in 2002.
On the day he died, he arrived at the Emergency Room showing all of the classic signs of a heart attack. The doctors who treated him that day all agreed with the diagnosis and treatment. In reality, John Ritter was suffering from an aortic dissection, an unrecognized and undetected flaw in his heart. According to WebMD.com, an aortic dissection as "an abnormal separation of tissues within the walls of the aorta" caused by high blood pressure, family history of the condition, disease of connective tissue, or severe trauma to the chest." This condition is very rare and it's no wonder the ER doctors didn't diagnose it. For a detailed medical explanation of John Ritter's death, click here.
During the course of the trial it was also revealed that two years before his death Ritter had been warned by a radiologist to seek additional advice from a cardiologist regarding calcification in three of his coronary arteries. Ritter never did. This condition did not directly cause his death, but had he followed that doctor's advice, his aortic dissection may have been detected and treated successfully.
I have a lot of sympathy for Yasbeck. Ritter died young and unexpectedly. She has a young daughter (Ritter actually died on his daughter, Stella's, 5th birthday) who will grow up without a father. I have no idea how difficult that must be. However, that doesn't automatically entitle you to money. The fact that her husband died unexpectedly does not have to be anyone's "fault." In fact, it isn't anyone's fault, It's just one of those things that happens in life that is totally unfair. Guess what - life is unfair. For Yasbeck to file a suit against hard-working doctors who fought to save her husband's life and to put a dollar amount ($67 million to be exact) on her loss cheapens her husband's life. It is just like declaring that she married him for the benefit of living a wealthy lifestyle for a specific number of years and she got short-changed when he died before she got what she had bargained for.
It's also a shame that the taxpayers of California had to pay for this suit to go to trial. It's no wonder that so many people are suing each other at the drop of a hat. The sense of entitlement that is running rampant through this country is not restricted to the every day American. The rich and famous are just as likely to try to get a big payoff when they are disappointed or don't get exactly what they wanted. The problem is, when the rich and famous do it, it makes headlines. That's what inspires the rest of the "something bad happened to me so give me money" crowd to keep attorneys on retainer in case they ever have to deal with disappointment. It's makes a sad statement about the character of this country and what we really value.