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.
According to recent reports, Joan Rivers’ ENT doctor allegedly took a selfie with the comedienne while she was under general anesthesia for her throat procedure.
A Yorkville Endoscopy staff member told investigators the photo was taken while Joan Rivers was in the procedure room, CNN reported.
Joan Rivers, 81, was there to undergo a scheduled endoscopy by gastroenterologist and the Yorkville Endoscopy’s medical director Dr. Lawrence Cohen, according to reports.
After that procedure, Joan Rivers also underwent an unauthorized vocal cord biopsy performed by the personal physician, who hasn’t been identified, CNN reported.
Joan Rivers’ ENT doctor allegedly took a selfie with the comedienne while she was under general anesthesia for her throat procedure
On September 12, Yorkville Endoscopy announced Dr. Lawrence Cohen was no longer its medical director. Reports are conflicting as to whether Dr. Lawrence Cohen voluntarily stepped down or was fired.
“Dr. Cohen is not currently performing procedures at Yorkville Endoscopy, nor is he currently serving as medical director,” said a spokesperson from the clinic in a statement.
The autopsy of Joan Rivers’ body did not yield a firm cause or manner of death, and that further studies would be conducted to determine how she died. Reports were that she stopped breathing while undergoing the throat surgery on August 28.
Joan Rivers was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, but the comedienne did not recover. She was put in a medically-induced coma and on life support.
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 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.