Before any doctor can perform a surgery on a patient, they’re required to inform the patient about the details and the risks associated with the procedure. Doctors must get their consent before moving ahead. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

On September 4, 2014, renowned comedian Joan Rivers died from cardiac arrest during a medical procedure.

The 81-year-old had scheduled an endoscopy, where a doctor uses an endoscope to get a close up of a person’s digestive tract, at Manhattan’s Yorkville Endoscopy Clinic to diagnose any issues related to her hoarse and raspy voice, which was also affecting her stomach’s reflux, according to CNN.

Once the doctor completed the endoscopy, a source told CNN that the doctor proceeded to conduct a biopsy, which is when a sample of tissue is removed, on her vocal cords. Allegedly, there was no consent given.

According to CNN, investigators believe that during the procedure, Rivers’ vocal cords swelled, which cut off the oxygen to her lungs. She was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, but it was determined that she died of brain damage from low blood oxygen.

Since the incident, the gastroenterologist who operated on Rivers was forced to resign. Also, in early January, the estate of the comedian filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the clinic and the doctors involved the procedure.

The lawsuit alleges that doctors performed procedures for which they didn’t have consent and that the doctors who performed the procedure were, “reckless, grossly negligent and wanton,” according to CNN.

The claim alleges that doctors failed to ensure that her oxygen saturation levels were at a safe level during an earlier laryngoscopy, which is when the larynx is examined, and that her vital signs weren’t properly monitored during the upper endoscopy. The doctors then later attempted another laryngoscopy, which it’s alleged that a doctor who performed the procedure wasn’t certified to do so. Also, when Rivers’ vital signs dropped, the lawsuit says doctors should have performed an emergency tracheotomy.

There are also allegations that one of the doctors performing the surgery took a photo with Rivers, while she was sedated, without her consent.

“Filing this lawsuit was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “What ultimately guided me was my unwavering belief that no family should ever have to go through what my mother, Cooper and I have been through.

“The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behavior is shocking and, frankly, almost incomprehensible,” Rivers said. “Not only did my mother deserve better, every patient deserves better. It is my goal to make sure that this kind of horrific medical treatment never happens to anyone again.”

If you need a legal opinion on a potential medical malpractice claim, the personal injury and accident lawyers at Neinstein LLP have been handling all types of injuries for over 45 years including injuries from negligent healthcare providers. We understand the impacts injuries can have on your life and we know how to help you. Call us at 1-844-920-4242. Set up a free consultation and come talk with us.

Greg Neinstein

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein