Medical Alerts: Murtha's Death a Surgical Mistake, and Second Report of Broken-Heart Syndrome

Details on two medical stories getting attention today.

Feb. 9, 2010— -- Two big medical stories are in the news today. There's reports that the powerful Democratic congressman John Murtha died from a surgical mistake, and there's also a fascinating story circulating about a condition called broken heart syndrome in which an emotional pain can literally cause a heart to stop.

Watch 'World News With Diane Sawyer' for Details on These Medical Stories

ABC's senior medical editor Dr. Richard Besser plans to bring you information on both of these stories tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer," but before the broadcast, here's some helpful background.

Murtha Dies From Medical Mistake

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports today that Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman died Monday because of the mistakes of his doctors. The 77-year-old legislator underwent routine gallbladder surgery Jan. 28, under the care of doctors at the National Naval Medical Center outside of Washington, D.C. Sources close to Murtha told the paper that his intestine was accidentally nicked during a laparoscopic gallbladder procedure. That nick turned into an infection that eventually took the congressman's life.

Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery is fairly common -- a majority of patients who have gallbladder surgery choose the procedure because it requires only small incisions and offers a rapid recovery. How can a common medical procedure go so wrong? And is there anything patients can do to protect themselves? Besser will tackle those questions tonight.

Broken Heart Syndrome Puts Healthy Women at Risk

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating item in today's paper about a medical condition called broken heart syndrome. The extremely rare condition causes many of the same symptoms as a heart attack but in seemingly healthy people. The Journal profiles one woman who suffered a "broken heart" after her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. She experienced chest pains in the hospital, and doctors determined that stress over her husband's death had caused her heart to freeze.

Broken heart syndrome is apparently most common in postmenopausal women, and the condition can be triggered by events that range from the death of a loved one to a bad reaction to a surprise birthday party. What causes the condition, and how can you distinguish it from a heart attack? Is there anything healthy women can do to prevent a broken heart? Again, Besser will have details tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" on your ABC station and on