Melissa Rivers has filed a malpractice claim against the New York medical clinic that treated her mother, Joan Rivers, days before she died.
Joan Rivers, 81, suffered a cardiac arrest while undergoing a procedure to examine her throat at the Yorkville Endoscopy centre in August 2014.
The legal claim alleges doctors were not adequately trained and performed unauthorized procedures on the comedian.
Joan Rivers’ family is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
In November, state health investigators said the clinic failed to follow standard protocols while treating Joan Rivers, who died a week later.
The Department of Health cited multiple errors, including failing to detect the comedian’s deteriorating vital signs during the procedure, but negligence was not suspected.
The New York medical examiner’s office ruled Joan Rivers died of brain damage due to lack of oxygen during the procedure.
The death was classified as a “therapeutic complication”, meaning it was a known risk.
However, Melissa Rivers claims doctors mishandled the endoscopy and performed another procedure – carried out by specialist Gwen Korovin who was not cleared to work at the clinic – without consent.
During the second procedure, gastroenterologist Dr. Lawrence Cohen and Gwen Korovin took pictures on their mobile phones of themselves with the sedated comedian.
Gwen Korovin later said she thought Joan Rivers would have wanted to see the images. Dr. Lawrence Cohen has since resigned.
The legal claim alleges staff were not properly trained to detect Joan Rivers’ deteriorating vital signs or deal with the type of emergency airway obstruction she suffered before going into cardiac arrest.
It also claims Gwen Korovin left the room at this point because she knew she was not permitted to be there and “wanted to avoid getting caught”.
Melissa Rivers said filing the lawsuit was one of the most difficult decisions she had to make.
“What ultimately guided me was my unwavering belief that no family should ever have to go through what my mother, Cooper and I have been through,” she said, referring to her son.
“The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behavior is shocking and frankly, almost incomprehensible.”
The Yorkville Endoscopy centre said it was not appropriate to comment on the legal action.
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
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.
Melissa Rivers has released a new statement thanking fans for their support after her mother’s death.
Joan Rivers died in a New York hospital on September 4, a week after suffering cardiac arrest during a medical procedure. She was 81.
“As my son Cooper and I mourn the loss of my mother, we want to thank everyone for the beautiful cards and flowers conveying heartfelt messages and condolences, which continue to arrive from around the world and through social media,” Melissa Rivers posted to Joan Rivers’ official Facebook page on September 17.
Joan Rivers died in a New York hospital on September 4, a week after suffering cardiac arrest during a medical procedure (photo Facebook)
“My mother would have been overwhelmed by the scope and depth of the love that people have expressed for her. It is certainly helping to lift our spirits during this time.
“We are forever grateful for your kindness and support in continuing to honor my mother’s legacy, and for remembering the joy and laughter that she brought to so many.”
The Yorkville Endoscopy, the New York clinic where Joan Rivers stopped breathing a week before her death, denied ever administering general anesthesia or conducting a vocal cords biopsy that has been alleged in media reports as contributing to her demise.
It was the first time the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic issued a statement since August 28, when Joan Rivers was rushed to a nearby hospital from the center with cardiac arrest. She died at age 81 on September 4.
On September 10, New York’s Daily News reported that an unplanned vocal cord biopsy at the clinic had left Joan Rivers unable to breathe.
Joan Rivers’ doctor, who said he was an ear, nose and throat specialist, asked if he could use the clinic’s instruments when another doctor said he had noticed something on Rivers’ vocal cords, and Rivers’ physician was given the go-ahead, a medical source told the newspaper.
“A biopsy like that should only be done in hospital,” the newspaper quoted the unnamed medical source as saying.
“If she had been in a hospital when it happened, she might have been OK.”
In its statement, the Yorkville Endoscopy clinic did not mention Joan Rivers by name.
The cause of Joan Rivers’ death is still unknown pending further tests (photo Getty Images)
“A biopsy of the vocal cords has never been performed at Yorkville Endoscopy,” said the statement.
“General anesthesia has never been administered.”
The cause of Joan Rivers’ death is still unknown pending further tests, according to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner.
The State Health Department is investigating the Yorkville Endoscopy. It is reviewing documents and medical records and interviewing staff and physicians at the clinic in Manhattan’s Yorkville neighborhood, which opened in February 2013.
The clinic said its board-certified anesthesiologists use light to moderate sedation and monitor the patient continuously using state-of-the-art equipment.
“Yorkville Endoscopy has strict policies in place for the criteria of who gets treated in this center versus in a hospital,” it said, adding it also has all the airway equipment needed for emergency intubation.
The Yorkville Endoscopy said it has performed more than 18,000 procedures.
The Broadway League reversed itself on September 9 and chose to get theaters to dim their lights in honor of Joan Rivers.
The league had said on September 8 that Joan Rivers did not meet the criteria for the honor, triggering a controversy when several theater owners said they would turn off their marquee lights on September 9 anyway. An online petition was launched and several celebrities came out in favor of granting the honor.
The organization changed course Tuesday afternoon, saying the lights would dim at 6:45 PM for one minute.
“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her,” Charlotte St. Martin, the league’s executive director, said in a statement.
“Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight.”
The Broadway League reversed itself and chose to get theaters to dim their lights in honor of Joan Rivers (photo Getty Images)
Joan Rivers, who died on September 4 at 81, was known primarily as a TV actress and comedian, though she was seen as a champion of Broadway and off-Broadway shows and earned a Tony Award nomination.
Before the league’s reversal, 10 theaters out of 40 were set to break with the league and dim their lights. Theater producer Tom D’Angora had started an online petition asking the league to reverse its decision. It had attracted more than 5,000 signatures.
“I can’t believe we can be denied the last chance to show respect and thank her. I also think if you watch her interviews and documentaries, this would hurt her feelings,” Tom D’Angora said.
“Plus, how hard is it to hit a dimmer switch?”
A spokeswoman for the Rivers family said they were in mourning and didn’t want to comment.
The NYPD is investigating the death of Joan Rivers, who passed away on September 4 after reportedly suffering cardiac arrest during a routine surgical procedure the previous week.
Joan Rivers, 81, stopped breathing on August 28 at Yorkville Endoscopy as she underwent an otherwise routine procedure on her vocal chords. The comeddiene was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan later that same day a placed on life support. She died seven days later.
The NYPD is investigating the death of Joan Rivers (photo Getty Images)
A police source told the Hollywood Reporter: “Yes, NYPD is investigating.”
“We investigate all such deaths, meaning <<not by natural causes>>. Although it might end up being ruled natural by the [medical examiner], when it’s not readily apparent, we investigate.”
The New York City’s Medical Examiner’s office said on September 5 that the “cause and manner” of Joan Rivers’ death will “require further studies”.
Yorkville Endoscopy is also under investigation by the New York State Department of Health.