Unfortunately, John Ritter’s doctors repeatedly failed to diagnose his signs and symptoms which ultimately led to his death:

  • Doctors failed to diagnose John’s aortic dissection and misdiagnosed it as a heart attack
  • Subsequently, John did not receive the required procedures and management for his aortic dissection
  • Due to their failure to diagnose, doctors did not perform a chest x-ray to examine John’s aortic dissection. A chest x-ray would have revealed his enlarged aorta which would have resulted in emergency surgery - possibly saving his life
  • Because doctors misdiagnosed John’s aortic dissection as a heart attack, they prescribed him with anticoagulants (blood thinners). This is a type of medication that should not be given to someone with internal bleeding - which is something that an aortic dissection causes
  • Additionally, doctors failed to diagnose John’s enlarged aorta two years prior when examining his heart at a routine medical - something that would have led to immediate intervention and the saving of his life

Two of the main doctors involved in John’s case were ultimately put on a medical malpractice trial for negligence and liability. John’s widow sought accountability and public education through the trial, as well as $67 million in damages. However, the doctors were cleared of any wrongdoing after only a month of proceedings, with the formal reason being that even if his doctors had caught the aortic dissection, there was little that they could have done to save John’s life, and he would have died anyway.

Despite this outcome, it cannot be denied that their combined failure to diagnose led to John’s wrongful death.

John’s widow, Amy Yasbeck, has since set up a foundation to help spread awareness of aortic dissections known as “The John Ritter Foundation.” In addition to spreading awareness, the foundation promotes preventative care and ensures that people at risk receive the care that they need.

Legal Matters

If you wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor for their failure to diagnose, it is best that you consult with a qualified medical malpractice lawyer. The reason for this is that the law differs by state, and the law does not always hold doctors legally accountable for all diagnostic errors. You will need an NYC medical malpractice attorney who is familiar with the laws that pertain to NYC in particular.

Your NYC medical malpractice lawyer will then help you pursue your failure to diagnose medical malpractice lawsuit by assisting you in proving that a failure to diagnose occurred because:

  • You and your doctor had an existing doctor-patient relationship
  • Your doctor did not diagnose you properly and this resulted in your injury/disability
  • Your doctor acted negligently - something that another doctor wouldn’t have done as they would have correctly diagnosed your medical problem based on your symptoms.


If you believe that you or a family member may have experienced a failure to diagnose, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Rosenburg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff LLP in NYC today and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys.

When you are ready to talk, we are ready to listen. Call 212-344-1000 for a free, confidential consultation.


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