Almost two years after the death of comedienne Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa has settled a medical malpractice suit against Yorkville Endoscopy, the outpatient surgery center in New York City where Rivers went for a seemingly-routine procedure to help her voice.
The 81-year-old Rivers was undergoing a laryngoscopy on Aug. 28, 2014, when things went horribly wrong. That's a procedure that involves examining the vocal cords and voice box. Rivers had been suffering a sore throat and hoarseness.
Anesthesiologist Says His Warnings Were Ignored
Patients are given anesthesia for the procedure because it involves examining the upper digestive system. The primary anesthesiologist on the scene claimed that he saw that something was going wrong. He says that he warned the doctor that Rivers' vocal cords were very swollen and could seize up. He claimed that the doctor performing the procedure accused him of being "paranoid" and "a curious cat."
Indeed, however, Rivers' vocal cords closed up. She stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest. According to the lawsuit, several minutes went by before anyone called 911. The anesthesiologist says that no emergency procedure was performed, such as a cricothyrotomy, because the ear, nose and throat doctor performing the throat procedure had left the clinic. Rivers remained on life support for a week.
Among those named in the suit were the ear, nose and throat doctor, several anesthesiologists and the medical director of the clinic. The medical director, who is no longer with the clinic, was accused in the lawsuit of taking a picture of Rivers with his cellphone during the procedure.
Rivers' Family, Attorneys Are Turning Their Focus to Improved Outpatient Facility Regulation
The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed beyond the description of it being "substantial." However, Melissa Rivers and her attorneys say that their focus is on helping to make sure that what happened to the comedic legend doesn't happen to anyone else. They say that they will work with New York state legislators to implement minimum safety standards and improve oversight of outpatient surgical centers.
Many people assume that those with money, fame and/or power can afford the best medical treatment available. That may be true. However, medical procedures can still go wrong for any number of reasons. When someone is harmed or worse due to negligence or error by medical professionals, it's essential to hold them legally accountable.
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