Readers of this blog no doubt remember the tragic and unexpected death of Joan Rivers after a simple medical procedure. Recently, Joan Rivers’ family settled a personal injury/wrongful death lawsuit against the physicians who treated Rivers at a New York outpatient medical facility prior to her death. Although the settlement amount was confidential, lawyers representing the family indicated that the settlement was “substantial.”
Joan Rivers; daughter, Melissa Rivers, made a public statement to say that she was glad the legal issues surrounding her mother’s death had been fairly resolved. She also said that she was glad the people responsible for the death of her mother had admitted to their mistakes. Melissa Rivers indicated that she planned to fight for the improvement of safety at outpatient medical facilities. Furthermore, lawyers representing the family stated that they were keeping the settlement amount confidential in order to keep the focus on outpatient safety rather than the settlement amount.
Joan Rivers initially went to the medical facility at issue in this case due to a hoarse voice and a sore throat. Two fairly routine examinations were ordered to study her digestive tract and throat area. The exams required physicians to anesthetize Rivers. However, in spite of one anesthesiologist’s warning of the chance that Rivers vocal cords could seize and obstruct her breathing, another anesthesiologist performed the procedure anyway. Rivers’ vocal cords did seize and obstructed her breathing, but treating physicians did not respond in a way that could have saved her. Furthermore, physicians were accused of acting in an unprofessional way; one physician snapped a photo of unconscious Rivers while she was on the operating table.
Unfortunately, operating room mistakes are extremely common in New York City and the rest of the country. Family members who suspect that their loved one may have died suspiciously following a routine medical procedure are therefore encouraged to investigate whether medical negligence may have caused their loved one’s death.
Source: The New York Times, “Settlement Reached in Joan Rivers Malpractice Case,” Marc Santora, May 12, 2016