Physicians accept responsibility for Joan Rivers' death

Five physicians from New York-based Yorkville Endoscopy agreed to pay a "substantial" amount and accepted responsibility for the death of comedian Joan Rivers to settle a malpractice lawsuit brought by her family, according to The New York Times.

In addition to the outpatient clinic, the lawsuit named ear, nose and throat physician Gwen Korovin, MD; anesthesiologist Renuka Bankulla, MD; two other anesthesiologists; and the former clinic director, Lawrence Cohen, MD, who has since stepped down from his post, according to the report. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by Ms. River's daughter, Melissa, in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan.  

The Rivers family's lawyers chose not to disclose the dollar amount of the settlement because they wanted to focus on the importance of improving patient safety and quality in ASCs. The suit said the physicians, in addition to being star-struck and dangerously eager to please, made a series of errors that led to Ms. Rivers' death, according to the report.

Ms. Rivers went to Yorkville Endoscopy in August 2014 for two routine procedures: a laryngoscopy and an endoscopy, according to the report. While under anesthesia, her vocal cords became so swollen they blocked her airway, according to the report. Dr. Bankulla did not call for a "crash cart," which would have had a drug to relax her vocal cords, and when she sought assistance from Dr. Korovin, who could have punched a hole in Ms. Rivers' throat — an emergency cricothyrotomy — she found Dr. Korovin had already left the clinic, according to the report. 911 was called as Ms. Rivers went into cardiac arrest. She died seven days later, at age 81, after being taken off life support, according to the report.

Melissa Rivers said in a statement, "In accepting this settlement, I am able to put the legal aspects of my mother's death behind me and ensure that those culpable for her death have accepted responsibility for their actions quickly and without equivocation," according to E! News. She also pledged to push for higher safety standards in outpatient surgical clinics.


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