The late Michael J. Davidson, MD, a brilliant and popular surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, was gunned down by an obsessed family member of a deceased cardiac patient on Jan. 20, 2015.1
A father of three with a fourth child on the way, Davidson’s last act was running out of the exam room to warn others of a shooter in the hospital. The gunman then took his own life.
“Dr. Davidson was part of the remarkable team that performed the hospital’s first tricuspid ‘valve-in-valve’ procedure and was involved in establishing BWH’s Cardiac Hybrid OR, one of the most advanced operating rooms in the country,” the hospital said in a statement.1 “The loss of this visionary, talented, and caring physician is felt deeply in Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology, throughout the entire Brigham community and broader healthcare community, and by countless patients and families who received remarkable care and experienced his unwavering compassion.”
That OR is now named in honor of the surgeon, whom a colleague recalled never left his patients with “a perfunctory visit. He didn’t leave the room until he was satisfied that the patient was well-served.”
Such was the case on the day of the shooting, as Davidson took a prolonged period of time trying to explain that he did everything he could to save a man’s 78-year-old severely ill mother from dying of heart failure.
According to an investigative report2 by the Boston Globe, here are some key facts in the tragic incident:
- While the patient’s death certificate lists “cardiovascular collapse” caused by her preexisting illnesses, her 55-year-old son blamed her death on a postoperative drug Davidson had prescribed.
- Court records and interviews with the shooter’s family members reveal he had been troubled for decades and embroiled in family disputes with a deep belief in his own “righteousness.”
- Security cameras showed the man entering the hospital at 8:48 a.m. It was later determined he had a holstered gun hidden beneath his sweater. At 9:24 a.m., he began asking to see Dr. Davidson, declining to schedule an appointment for a later time.
- Davidson met the man in an exam room with a physician assistant at 10:25 a.m. The assistant remembered the man as angry, but not raising his voice as he began questioning the surgeon about a “toxic” drug used to regulate heartbeat.
- Davidson explained he was aware of the possible side effects but said the man’s mother did not have a reaction to the drug and was being monitored. He explained that many drugs have potentially dangerous side effects that must always be factored into the patient care equation. However, the man kept repeating his mother died because of the drug and did not seem to be listening to the surgeon’s explanations.
- After about 10 or 15 minutes Davidson told the assistant to go ahead and assist the next patient while he continued talking to the man. The conversation continued for some 25 minutes, but nobody recalls hearing raised voices. At 11:03 a.m. there was the sound of two gunshots, mortally wounding the surgeon, then a third when the shooter took his own life.