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Use of anesthesia connected to death of Joan Rivers

Recently, a report was released by the New York City medical examiner regarding the death of comedian Joan Rivers. This post is a follow up to a summary of the case that we wrote previously. What is now known, according to the report, is that Ms. Rivers's death was due to brain damage caused by a shortage of oxygen. The complications occurred when she was undergoing a scoping procedure on her upper gastrointestinal tract at the time of the incident.

Ms. Rivers was given an anesthetic called propofol, a drug that allegedly played a role in the death of singer Michael Jackson. Medical experts advise that those charged with administering the drug should be trained in its use. Special care needs to be taken when propofol is issued on elderly patients. Further, someone not directly involved in the procedure should be tasked with monitoring the patient continuously throughout the operation.

One aspect of this tragedy that may surprise you is that the report classifies the comedian's death as a therapeutic complication. This means that the complication responsible for Ms. Rivers's death had a level of risk considered inherent to the procedure. Under such circumstances, patients are given a waiver to sign prior to surgery wherein they acknowledge the risk.

The state health department is conducting an investigation into the death. A medical malpractice attorney commenting on the case said that it is still possible for another doctor to make a different determination. Therefore, the results of this recent report do not necessarily preclude the filing of a lawsuit by Ms. River's family.

This unfortunate incident demonstrates the importance of patient awareness and of proper preparation on the part of the surgical team. Every time a patient is wheeled into a surgical arena, they are trusting that the doctors and other medical professionals are up to the task at hand.

If you believe you or someone in your family has been negatively impacted by medical error, you might have cause to bring a medical malpractice suit against those who were responsible. A medical negligence attorney may be able to help you in seeking compensation.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Joan Rivers died of brain damage from low blood oxygen," Colleen Long, Oct. 16, 2014

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