A settlement has been reached in the medical malpractice lawsuit over the death of comedienne Joan Rivers, who died in 2014 after an outpatient medical procedure went wrong.
While the amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, lawyers for the Rivers family called the settlement “substantial.”
Joan’s daughter, Melissa Rivers, filed the lawsuit against 5 physicians from Yorkville Endoscopy in 2015. The suit alleged that a whole series of errors and inappropriate behavior took place, including performing unauthorized medical procedures, failing to act as Joan’s vital signs deteriorated, and using a cell phone to take ‘selfies’ with an unconscious Joan.
Joan was originally scheduled for an endoscopy, but during the procedure, her physicians decided to do a laryngoscopy as well without obtaining consent. According to the lawsuit, one of the anesthesiologists expressed concern that Joan’s swollen vocal cords could compromise her breathing, but her concerns were dismissed by another physician.
When Joan’s vocal chords closed, the anesthesiologist recognized that she was suffering from airway obstruction but did not call for a crash cart. Instead, she wanted the ear, nose, and throat physician to perform an emergency airway opening, but that physician had already left.
In the chaos, several minutes passed before someone called 911. By then, Joan had been denied of oxygen for too long and went into cardiac arrest. She died 7 days later after being taken off of life support by her family.
In a statement, Melissa Rivers vowed to “work towards ensuring higher safety standards in outpatient surgical clinics.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services subsequently investigated the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic and found that the clinic made numerous errors including taking cell phone photos, failing to keep proper medication records, failing to receive informed consent for every procedure, and failing to record Joan’s weight prior to administering anesthesia.