Joan Rivers death: Clinic committed errors, report finds

Joan Rivers died this year after she stopped breathing during an outpatient procedure. Above, Rivers arrives at the 2003 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.
(Laura Rauch / Associated Press)

The New York clinic where Joan Rivers stopped breathing committed a number of errors, including failing to get Rivers’ consent for all the procedures that were performed, according to a federal report released Monday.

The report, which did not refer to Rivers by name, also found that Yorkville Endoscopy inconsistently documented the amount of the sedative propofol Rivers received before the Aug. 28 procedures, that an ENT doctor without privileges to operate at the clinic performed procedures on Rivers, and that a clinic staffer took a cellphone picture of the comic while she was sedated.

The “Fashion Police” star was rushed from Yorkville Endoscopy to Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital after she stopped breathing. While the report said she was resuscitated at the clinic, she did not regain consciousness after arriving at the hospital, and daughter Melissa Rivers had her taken off life support Sept. 4.

The medical team at Yorkville Endoscopy also failed to notice Rivers’ blood-oxygen level dropping below normal in the 15 minutes or so before resuscitation attempts began, the report said.


Problems surrounded the clinic’s use of the sedative. According to the report, there was no evidence that the clinic weighed Rivers before sedating her, a key step to determining how much sedative a patient should receive. And it’s unclear how much propofol Rivers got. A clinic record showed she received 300 milligrams of the drug, but an anesthesiologist told investigators that the amount had been incorrectly entered and that Rivers really got only 120 milligrams.

Rivers’ death “resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy,” the New York medical examiner’s office concluded last month after an autopsy of the comedian.

Melissa Rivers “is outraged by the misconduct and mismanagement,” her attorneys said Monday in a statement. “Moving forward, Ms. Rivers will direct her efforts towards ensuring that what happened to her mother will not occur again with any other patient.”

Two weeks after Joan Rivers’ procedures, Yorkville Endoscopy said it had parted ways with one of its doctors. Dr. Lawrence Cohen is no longer medical director there and no longer performs procedures there, a spokeswoman for the clinic told the Associated Press in mid-September.


As of Monday, Cohen’s photo and bio still appeared on the clinic’s website. A woman who answered the phone at the clinic told the Los Angeles Times that Cohen no longer works there. She declined to provide her name or answer further questions about him.

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