Was Joan Rivers’ Death Caused by Medical Malpractice?

The September 4, 2014, death of 81-year-old Joan Rivers a week after undergoing an outpatient procedure at the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic has raised questions by fans and officials regarding the cause of the well-known comedian’s death. During what has been described as a routine throat procedure to treat Ms. Rivers’ voice changes and acid reflux disease, Ms. Rivers is reported to have stopped breathing and to have gone into cardiac arrest. The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) ruled her ultimate death to have been caused by a lack of oxygen to her brain during the procedure. Specifically, the OCME found that Ms. Rivers’ death was caused by “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest during laryngoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy.” Though the OCME stated that “the death resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy,” investigations conducted after Ms. Rivers’ death have revealed evidence of failings on the part of clinic personnel and the clinic, itself.

An investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that Yorkville Endoscopy personnel “failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention” during Ms. Rivers’ procedure. Clinic personnel were also reported to have failed to properly document how much of the sedative Propofol was used on Ms. Rivers during the procedure and to have taken cell-phone photographs of Ms. Rivers while she was sedated.

Another investigation, conducted as a matter of routine by the New York State Health Department, is reported to have discovered lapses by the clinic in four categories required for accreditation (governing body and management, surgical services, medical staff, and patient rights). According to a statement issued by Yorkville Endoscopy after these findings were released, the clinic has submitted and implemented a plan to correct the issues raised in the investigation. The clinic also stated that the Yorkville Endoscopy physicians who were involved in Ms. Rivers’ direct treatment and care were no longer practicing or providing services through the clinic.

physician negligenceCan the clinic and clinic personnel involved in the treatment of Ms. Rivers be held legally responsible for Ms. Rivers’ death? Medical malpractice law provides for the liability of medical clinics, hospitals, and medical professionals when their negligence is determined to have been a cause of a patient’s injury or death. The Killino Firm’s medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience with medical malpractice cases, including those arising from injuries or deaths caused by the direct or indirect negligence of clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare entities and/or the negligence of physicians and other medical professionals. If you have been injured or one of your family members has died and you suspect the injury or death was due to medical malpractice of any kind, The Killino Firm’s team of medical malpractice lawyers can help you obtain the compensation you deserve from the responsible parties. Contact The Killino Firm for more information about your legal rights and options.

Legal Responsibility for Medical Patients’ Injuries and Deaths

As medical malpractice is a form of negligence, a medical malpractice defendant’s liability for a patient’s injury or death depends upon proof that the defendant’s medical negligence was a cause of the victim’s injury or death. Defendants in a medical malpractice action can include not only the physicians and other medical professionals involved in the treatment or care of a patient but also the employers of those medical professionals as well as the clinics, hospitals, or other facilities in which the patient received care and treatment.

Negligence of Hospitals or Clinics

The hospital or clinic in which a patient receives care and/or treatment may be found directly liable in a medical malpractice action for the patient’s injury or death if the hospital’s or clinic’s negligence is determined to have been a cause of the patient’s injury or death. The causal connection between a hospital or clinic’s negligence and a patient’s injury or death may be established through, among other things, evidence of a clinic or hospital’s inadequate procedures and protocol for patient safety and health, negligence in hiring and training clinic or hospital staff, failure to adequately maintain clinic or hospital equipment, or failure to ensure sanitary clinic or hospital conditions.

Hospitals and clinics may also be found vicariously, or indirectly, liable for patients’ injuries and deaths that are determined to have been caused by the negligence of hospital or clinic employees. If, for example, a physician employed by a clinic or hospital is found to have negligently caused a patient’s injury or death, the clinic or hospital, as the physician’s employer, may be found indirectly liable for the patient’s injury or death.

Negligence of Physicians and Other Medical Professionals

Physicians and other medical professionals can commit medical malpractice in myriad ways. The failure to properly monitor a patient’s anesthesia or other medication during surgery, for example, may result in the liability of the responsible medical professionals for a patient’s resulting injury or death. The ordering and/or administration of the wrong medications or medications in improper doses, failure to timely and adequately monitor and respond to patients’ vital signs, delayed or improper diagnoses, failure to order surgical or other procedures when indicated, failure to test patients for allergies to administered anti-inflammatory medications, and negligent failure to listen to patients’ complaints or to take full patient histories are among the many ways in which physicians and other medical professionals can engage in medical malpractice causal of patients’ injuries and deaths.

Obtain Expert Assistance from The Killino Firm, P.C.

The Killino Firm’s medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death lawyers are known around the country for their expertise in medical malpractice cases and their aggressive pursuit of justice from those responsible for patients’ medical malpractice injuries and deaths. Contact The Killino Firm’s highly respected team of medical malpractice lawyers and paralegals for experienced and compassionate assistance with your case.