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Joan Rivers’ death investigation: Manhattan clinic did not notice deteriorating vital signs for 15 minutes

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A federal investigation has found that the Manhattan clinic treating Joan Rivers in August did not notice that her vital signs were deteriorating for about 15 minutes before she went into cardiac arrest, leading to her death several days later.

Released on November 10, the investigation said that Joan Rivers’ blood pressure and pulse decreased precipitously while she was on the operating table on August 28 between 9:12 and 9:26 AM, yet cardiopulmonary resuscitation began at 9:28 AM at the earliest.

“The physician in charge of the care of the patient failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention during the procedure,” said the report made by investigators for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Joan Rivers died on September 4 of brain damage brought on by lack of oxygen

Joan Rivers died on September 4 of brain damage brought on by lack of oxygen

The investigation found that the anesthesiologist at the clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy, later changed the medical record to reduce the amount of Propofol, a strong anesthetic whose misuse can be fatal, that Joan Rivers received. The stated dose was reduced to 120 milligrams from 300 milligrams.


Investigators also reported that Dr. Lawrence Cohen, then medical director of the clinic, took cellphone pictures of Joan Rivers and her ear, nose and throat doctor, Gwen Korovin, while she was lying on the operating table unconscious from anesthesia.

Dr. Lawrence Cohen told the others in the room that Joan Rivers might want to see the pictures in the recovery room.

The 81-year-old comedian never recovered from what was supposed to be a routine procedure to examine her throat. Instead, she went into cardiac arrest and was rushed to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where she was put on life support.

Joan Rivers died on September 4 of brain damage brought on by lack of oxygen, according to the medical examiner.