Lawsuit Reveals Details about Joan Rivers’ Death
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Joan Rivers

Summary: A lawsuit filed on behalf of Joan Rivers’ estate details possible mistakes the doctors may have made during a procedure that led to her death.

According to CNN, Joan Rivers’ estate filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme court on Monday against the physicians and outpatient center involved in Rivers’ August 28 surgical procedure that eventually killed her.


The lawsuit describes various mistakes that the outpatient endoscopy facility and its doctors allegedly made on August 28. Rivers passed away on September 4.

The lawsuit seeks damages, and attorneys for the estate stated that Rivers’ family wants to “make certain that the many medical deficiencies that led to Joan Rivers’ death are never repeated by any outpatient surgery center.”

The lawsuit accuses the doctors of Yorkville Endoscopy in Manhattan of being “reckless, grossly negligent and wanton” during the procedure. In addition, the suit alleges that the doctors performed medical procedures, even though Rivers had not consented to them. Further, the suit claims that one of the doctors had neither the credentials nor the privileges to even treat patients at Yorkville Endoscopy.

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The New York medical examiner said that the famous comedian went to the medical facility for a procedure that would evaluate her “voice changes” and to also determine the cause of her stomach reflux.

Rivers signed an authorization that provided consent for an upper endoscopy with possibly biopsy/possible polypectomy and possible dilation of the esophagus. Verbal consent to additional procedures before receiving anesthesia was not clear, and the lawsuit argues she did not provide any additional consent.

A camera is used during an upper endoscopy to examine the upper area of the digestive system. The camera, on a flexible tube, is controlled by a doctor. The procedure is used to diagnose digestive ailments, such as small intestine, esophagus, and stomach problems.

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Should the doctor discover an area that appears cancerous, a biopsy would be performed. Voice changes can sometimes be a symptom of throat cancer.

A polypectomy is a procedure used to remove nasal polyps. These polyps are benign in nature and grow in the mucous membrane, blocking nasal passages.

An esophageal dilation is a procedure during which the esophagus is dilated or stretched, commonly done as part of a sedated endoscopy procedure. Most often, the procedure is performed when the esophagus has narrowed due to acid reflux. Many patients have had trouble swallowing and have experienced pain due to such narrowing. Sometimes, cancer can cause narrowing of the esophagus.

As far as the procedures Rivers received, she first underwent a laryngoscopy, to which she did not provide written consent. This allowed the doctors to examine the vocal folds and glottis. During this initial procedure, the doctors reported having “difficulty maintaining” Rivers’ oxygen saturation at an “appropriate and safe level to ensure that her airway was not compromised.”

In October, Joan Rivers’ daughter hired a law firm to investigate the case.

Next, Dr. Renuka Bankulla and Dr. Lawrence Cohen performed an upper endoscopy, the procedure for which written consent had been provided. Dr. Bankulla noticed another drop in Rivers’ oxygen saturation level, and requested that the procedure be stopped and the endoscope removed to increase Rivers’ oxygen.

Once the oxygen level was increased again, Dr. Cohen inserted the laryngoscope and continued the upper endoscopy.

According to the lawsuit, during this part of the procedure, Dr. Cohen and Dr. Bankulla did not ensure Rivers’ airway was maintained appropriately, and the doctors “failed to properly observe and monitor Joan Rivers’ vital signs which were deteriorating” and that Rivers’ blood pressure “dropped significantly” along with her pulse and oxygen saturation level.

After Dr. Cohen completed the upper endoscopy, he took a “selfie” with the sedated Rivers, obviously without her consent. According to the lawsuit, Cohen said while taking the photo that perhaps Rivers “would like to see these in the recovery area.”

Dr. Gwen Korovin then stated that she wished to “go down again” to get another look, which meant doing another laryngoscopy without written consent. Dr. Korovin continued with the procedure even after Dr. Bankulla said that the procedure could compromise Rivers’ airway. However, Dr. Cohen told Dr. Bankulla that she was “being paranoid” and the second laryngoscopy was performed.

The medical examiner’s office performed an investigation in October, which concluded that the cause of death was “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest,” meaning that brain damage caused by insufficient oxygen during the laryngoscopy was fatal.

Read about the report here.

The investigation further explained that Rivers had a laryngospasm, a spasm of the vocal cords that hindered her breathing. Therefore, Rivers could not obtain enough oxygen, and her heart was prevented from delivering fresh oxygenated blood to her brain, which stopped functioning.

The doctors did notice that Rivers’ vital signs had dropped, along with her oxygen saturation level, and they attempted to improve Rivers’ breathing.. After 10 minutes of ambu bagging, Dr. Bankulla told another doctor to prepare a tracheotomy kit.

However, the lawsuit argues that the doctors should have then performed an emergency tracheotomy. Dr. Bankulla looked for Dr. Korovin to perform a cricothyrotomy, but Dr. Korovin had left the operating room, according to the suit.

Dr. Korovin has enjoyed a successful career, treating many celebrity clients who have sought her out for their voice troubles. Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Nathan Lane, Celine Dion, and Hugh Jackman have all praised Dr. Korovin.

Although Dr. Korovin is a licensed physician, she “did not have privileges to perform surgical procedures” at Yorkville Endoscopy, and she was not credentialed to perform procedures there, the lawsuit reads.

When Rivers began deteriorating, the lawsuit states that Korovin left the operating room “because she knew she was not permitted to perform medical services or procedures” at that clinic and wanted to “avoid getting caught.” According to The New York Times, Dr. Korovin denies these allegations.

In addition, the suit claims that the doctors were woefully unprepared to handle an emergency like the one that occurred that day.

The Yorkville Endoscopy clinic previously said, “Our anesthesiologists monitor the patient continuously utilizing state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, and remain at the bedside throughout the procedure and into recovery.” It further claimed that its doctors are certified for advance cardiac life support. However, according to the Huffington Post, the facility may have its accreditation revoked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid due to numerous mistakes it has made.

Korovin’s attorney issued a statement saying that she “is respected and admired by her peers in the medical community and she is revered by her patients.”

Read about the investigation into the facility here.

The statement also added, “As a matter of personal and professional policy, Dr. Korovin does not publicly discuss her patients or their care and treatment. Further, Dr. Korovin is prohibited by state and federal confidentiality laws from discussing her care and treatment of any particular patient. For these reasons, neither Dr. Korovin nor her attorneys will have any public comment on recent press reports regarding her practice. We ask that the press please respect Dr. Korovin’s personal and professional policy of not discussing her patients, as well as the privacy of her patients.”

Melissa Rivers, Joan’s daughter, released a statement about the lawsuit, saying, “Filing this lawsuit was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. 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. 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.”

Source: CNN

Photo credit: blogs.indiewire.com



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