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Did medical negligence lead to Joan Rivers' death?

When patients go into to have an outpatient procedure, they are putting their life in the hands of the doctor. They are trusting that the doctor will do what needs to be done and only what was agreed upon and consented to prior to the start of the procedure. When things go wrong for any reason during an outpatient procedure, it can spell disaster for the patient. Our Kentucky readers who enjoyed Joan Rivers' comedy might find the details surrounding her death rather troubling.

As people probably know, the 81-year-old comedienne died on Sept. 4 after being hospitalized following an outpatient procedure. In the most recent news, the cause of her death has been released. Her death is being called a therapeutic complication, which is a classification that isn't used that often. The cause of her death was brain damage caused by low blood oxygen, technically known as "anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest."

While that information does clue us into what happened, it doesn't present the entire story. Propofol, which was the drug likely responsible for Michael Jackson's death, was used during the procedure as the sedative. Rivers suffered from cardiac arrest, which necessitated the use of emergency services. Cardiac arrest is one of the rare side effects of the drug.

The official word on Rivers' death might leave some wondering what will happen next. It is important to realize that this ruling doesn't mean that a civil case won't occur. The possibility of a medical negligence or medical malpractice lawsuit is still there.

The lesson to be learned from Rivers' tragic death is two-fold. Patients must ensure they have a medical professional who is qualified and well trained when they are undergoing outpatient procedures. Medical professionals must ensure that they follow proper protocol during these procedures to keep their patients safe. When a patient is harmed or dies because of complications during a medical procedure, civil lawsuits are possible.

Source:, "Medical examiner: Rivers died of low blood oxygen" Colleen Long, Oct. 16, 2014

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