The Case of the Missing Heart Comes to an End; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA


June 16, 2016

In This Article

No Funny Business in Joan Rivers' Settlement

A lawsuit brought by the family of the late comedienne Joan Rivers was settled last month for an undisclosed but reportedly substantial amount, according to a story on the website of the Associated Press.[4]

Among other things, the lawsuit had alleged that the defendant—Yorkville Endoscopy, on Manhattan's Upper East Side—had mishandled the late comedienne's endoscopy and performed a second procedure without her prior consent. In a 2015 suit filed in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, Rivers' daughter, Melissa, claimed that the anesthesiologist present had warned that the second procedure, a laryngoscopy, could compromise the patient's breathing.

The gastroenterologist in charge of the endoscopy, however, allegedly dismissed the warning, saying that the anesthesiologist was being "paranoid." (Other news reports have indicated that in drafting their claim, attorneys for the plaintiffs were greatly aided by the anesthesiologist's extensive notes on the day of the procedure.)

The suit also alleged that during the procedure, some of those present had snapped a selfie with Rivers.

A New York City examiner's report found that Rivers had died of brain damage due to lack of oxygen after she stopped breathing, although it didn't cite provider negligence as the contributing cause; instead, it classified Rivers' death as a "therapeutic complication." An investigation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was more critical, however. It found that the clinic had made several errors, including failing to keep proper medication records and failing to record Rivers' weight before she was sedated.

Melissa Rivers said that the settlement allows her to "put the legal aspects of my mother's death behind me and [ensures] that those culpable for her death have accepted responsibility for their actions quickly and without equivocation." In a follow-up statement issued by her attorneys, she added that she will continue to work to improve safety standards at outpatient surgical clinics.

A spokesman for Yorkville Endoscopy said that the settlement avoids protracted litigation. In a statement, the clinic added, "Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Rivers family."


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