The death of comedienne Joan Rivers after treatment at a New York City endoscopy clinic last year has resulted in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Yorkville Endoscopy.

Lawrence Cohen, MD, the clinic’s medical director who has since stepped down; Gwen Korovin, MD, Rivers’ personal doctor; and Renuka Bankulla, MD, the anesthesiologist, were all named in the suit.

Filed by Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, the suit alleges numerous errors in Rivers’ treatment, including failure to notice her vital signs were dropping, and, shockingly, that the providers snapped cell phone “selfies” with Rivers while she was unconscious on the operating table.

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“The conduct is unfortunately outrageous,” said one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, Ben Rubinowitz.

“Not only is there medical mismanagement but you have a situation where doctors are taking photos of a patient when she needed assistance. They didn’t recognize the fact that she wasn’t getting sufficient oxygen.”

Among the allegations in the lawsuit is the claim that during what should have been a routine endoscopy Rivers’ personal physician decided to perform a laryngoscopy, which resulted in cardiac and respiratory arrest as well as brain damage caused by low blood oxygen.

The lawsuit also alleges that physicians involved with Rivers’ surgery were not adequately trained to recognize and act on emergencies, and that Rivers’ personal physician fled during the crisis because she knew she was unauthorized to be in the operation room. 

The Yorkville Endoscopy clinic has been found deficient by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and has been prohibited from receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds unless it complies with mandated changes by early March.

Ann Latner, JD, a former criminal defense attorney, is a freelance medical writer in Port Washington, N.Y.


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