Medical malpractice affects the lives of the both a patient and the people who care about that patient. Whether the malpractice results on a personal injury, or is so severe as to result in wrongful death, many people are hurt. When a beloved celebrity falls victim to a medical professional’s mistakes, the loss is felt to a certain degree by all of us. It appears that medical malpractice may very well be the cause of the recent death of much-admired comedian Joan Rivers.
Clinic That Treated Ms. Rivers Deemed Deficient and Could Lose License
ABC News reports that the clinic where Ms. Rivers underwent the procedure that caused her death could lose its federal accreditation. This is because the New York State Health Department’s investigation into Yorkville Endoscopy after Ms. Rivers’ death found lapses in four categories required for accreditation. The exact details of the lapses have not yet been revealed, but they fall into the following categories:
1. governing body and management 2. surgical services 3. medical staff 4. patient rights
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which certified ambulatory surgery facilities, has notified Yorkville Endoscopy that it no longer “meets the requirements for participation as a supplier of services in the Medicare program.” According to the health department, the accreditation will be terminated on January 7, 2015, if the clinic’s deficiencies are not remedied by then.
Medical Examiner Determined Joan Rivers Died Due to Low Blood Oxygen
Fox 32 News Chicago reports that the medical examiner has determined that Joan Rivers died because of brain damage caused by low blood oxygen during a medical procedure that was supposed to be to check out voice changes and reflux. The technical term for the cause of death is “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest.” Ms. Rivers was sedated during the procedure with propofol, which can cause hypoxia and cardiac arrest. It is the same drug that was implicated in Michael Jackson’s death.
The medical examiner classified the death as a “therapeutic complication.” This may be one hurdle to overcome in a medical malpractice case, because negligence was not listed as a contributing cause. The medical examiner likely made this finding because hypoxia was a known risk of propofol. However, the finding in no way prevents the filing of a medical malpractice claim-it is only one piece of evidence.
Ms. Rivers’ family has not yet announced whether they will be pursuing a medical malpractice suit against Yorkville Endoscopy or any of the medical professionals involved in the procedure. There is simply not enough information publicly available at this time to say whether such a suit would be successful or not. However, given the health department’s findings and other reports regarding the odd circumstances of the procedure, it is certainly worth investigating. While there are risks inherent in any medical procedure, especially those involving anesthetic, that does not mean that those who perform these procedures get a free pass. If mistakes were made and those mistakes contributed to Ms. Rivers’ death, then her family may have a wrongful death claim.
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