The sudden death of comedian Joan Rivers may have been a shock to her family and to her longtime fans. What came as an even greater shock is that her death may have been preventable.
During an August 2014 endoscopy to examine her upper gastrointestinal tract and vocal folds, Rivers went into cardiac arrest when a spasm in her larynx closed her airway, leading to a lack of oxygen to her lungs, according to the final report from the medical examiner. The spasm may have occurred while an unplanned biopsy of a vocal cord lesion was being taken. The cause of death is specifically called “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest” — brain damage from lack of oxygen. Rivers had been complaining of sore throats and hoarseness leading up to the procedure.
The endoscopic procedure that Rivers was undergoing is generally considered safe when performed in a medical office while the patient is awake or in a hospital under general anesthesia. Rivers, however, was being sedated in a clinic by the drug propofol during the procedure. Among propofol’s adverse reactions are listed laryngospasm and hypoxia (lack of oxygen), both rare, but both experienced by Rivers.
Health investigators are looking into the possibility that the doctors charged with Rivers’ care may have made preventable errors. Specifically, they suggest that the doctors may have not provided a timely intervention once they discovered that Rivers’ vital signs were worsening. Questions also arose over the dosage of the medicine that was administered during the procedure.
Medical Conditions Leading to Hypoxia (Lack of Oxygen)
There are many medical procedures that can cause hypoxia and serious injury or death. Premature babies are often born with hypoxia because their lungs are not developed enough to provide the oxygen the body needs. And in general, any medical procedure that affects the amount of oxygen that the lungs can take in (such as Joan Rivers experienced), the amount of blood that the heart can supply to the body (for instance, heart attack), or the amount of oxygen reaching the brain can result in hypoxia, brain damage, and death.
Has Someone You Loved Died Because of a Lack of Oxygen During a Medical Procedure?
If you think that a medical procedure wrongly created a lack of oxygen and brain damage or death for a loved one, help is available. Call Attorney Group to have one of its affiliated lawyers examine your claim to see if you are entitled to monetary compensation.