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The Facts of Joan River’s Death

joan-rivers-pic_277x319.jpgIn the wake of Joan Rivers’ passing we have seen an outpouring of love and support from millions of fans all around the world. With the sudden and unexpected circumstances of her death this past Thursday, it’s impossible to ignore the question of what could have caused such a rapid decline in health during a routine medical procedure.

On the morning of August 28th, Rivers visited the Yorkville Endoscopy Center on the Upper East Side for a diagnostic throat procedure. At 9:39 that morning, someone from the medical clinic made a 911 call after Rivers had gone into cardiac arrest. By the time she arrived at Mount Sinai Hospital, Rivers was in near death condition and required life support.

For the week following Rivers was kept in a medically induced coma, surrounded by her friends and family. On Thursday, she was taken off life support in accordance with the wishes of her daughter Melissa.

What could have caused Rivers to go into cardiac arrest while under anesthesia at the Upper East Side clinic? Until the results of her autopsy are released it is impossible to know. Sadly patient deaths as a result of botched routine procedures are far from rare in the US. The Institute of Medicine reported in 1999 that between 44,000 and 80,000 US hospital patients die each year as a result of mistakes and unsafe practices. Former Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy describes this troubling statistic as the equivalent of a 727 jet crashing every day, killing everyone onboard.

The New York State Health Department is presently conducting a full investigation into the Yorkville Endoscopy Center where Rivers went into cardiac arrest.

Until we have more information, we are left only with the tragic reminder that even the most routine medical procedures can pose significant risks to our health. Our hearts go out to the close friends and family of Joan Rivers during this difficult time.

Sources: Dillon, Nancy and Larry McShane, “Joan Rivers declared dead after Melissa Rivers gives go-ahead to remove star from life support,” NY Daily News, September 4, 2014.

Fears, Danika and David K. Li, “Health Department reviewing clinic where Joan Rivers stopped breathing,” New York Post, September 4, 2014.

Margolin, Josh, Aaron Katersky and Michael Rothman, “Joan Rivers: What We Know So Far About Yorkville Endoscopy and Rivers’ Death,” ABC News, September 5, 2014.

Sternberg, Steve, “Medical Errors Harm Huge Number of Patients,” US News & World Report, August 28, 2012.