On the morning of January 20, 2015, Stephen Pasceri, a 55-year old accountant, called in sick to work and left his suburban home without saying goodbye to his wife. He left behind a thumb-drive filled with medical “research” and drove to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
The previous fall, Pasceri’s mother had undergone surgery there, performed by Dr. Michael Davidson, the hospital’s director of endovascular cardiac surgery, a professor at Harvard Medical School, a specialist in high-risk patients, and the father of three children (with a fourth on the way). However, Marguerite Pasceri died some weeks later at another hospital. Her death certificate listed her cause of death as “cardiovascular collapse” caused by her preexisting illnesses, including multiple heart surgeries, and exacerbated by a lifetime of Newports.
Stephen Pasceri knew better.
After much internet surfing, Pasceri decided that amiodarone, a commonly prescribed post-operative medication for patients suffering from an irregular heartbeat, had killed his mother. Dr. Davidson had prescribed that medication. “It’s very unlikely that she died of amiodarone,” said Dr. Philip Newman, a board-certified cardiologist and long-time practitioner who is an associate professor of medicine at the University of California–Irvine. “[Dr. Davidson] did everything right.” Notwithstanding expert opinion, Pasceri was “certain” that Dr. Davidson was responsible for his mother’s death.
On that brisk winter morning, Pasceri arrived at the hospital unannounced, wandered aimlessly for about an hour, and then demanded to see Dr. Davidson. “I’m not leaving without seeing him,” he said, over and over. Despite a busy schedule that had to be rearranged, the doctor – well known for his patience and good bedside manner – sat with Pasceri to listen to a grieving son and to explain what he had done and why.
Almost immediately, Pasceri referenced his internet study and accusingly asked, “Are you aware that this drug is extremely toxic?” When Dr. Davidson explained that he was well aware of the side effects and that his mother had been monitored carefully, Pasceri did not seem to hear and repeated his accusations, again and again. “Well, my mother died because of this,” he said.
The last half of the conversation was unwitnessed, but after meeting for nearly 40 minutes in total, two blasts from a .40-caliber pistol rang out. Dr. Davidson burst from the room, clutching his wounds and yelling, “Run. Run. He’s shooting, he’s shooting!” Meanwhile, Pasceri shoved the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. Pasceri died at the scene. After more than eight hours of emergency surgery, Dr. Davidson was pronounced dead.