Joan Rivers’ Death Brings Safety of NYC Medical Clinics into Spotlight

Dawn Snyder | September 29th, 2014

Medical MalpracticeProving that a life-altering medical mistake can happen to anyone, comedian and entertainment icon Joan Rivers passed away earlier this month after a routine procedure at a New York medical clinic. Rivers stopped breathing during the procedure and was then kept alive on life support for seven days. According to recent reports, her family is considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Clinic may have performed unauthorized procedure

According to most recent reports, Rivers was at the clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy in Manhattan, to undergo an endoscopy on her vocal chords. Endoscopy is considered a routine and relatively safe procedure. But conflicting reports raise questions about whether a doctor involved in the endoscopy, Dr. Gwen Korovin, decided to immediately biopsy a growth found in the chords; a biopsy is a more involved procedure and not safe to be performed at an outpatient clinic like Yorkville, and in any case should not have been performed without prior patient authorization. No authorization was found on file.

Adding insult to injury, clinic staff report that Dr. Korovin, who allegedly performed the unauthorized biopsy took a “selfie,” with an unconscious Rivers visible in the shot, in the procedure room. Korovin denies that she took the selfie but clinic employees reportedly told investigators that she took the cell phone photo while telling them that Rivers would think it was funny.

Freestanding clinics – especially dangerous for the elderly

NY medical clinic malpractice is a growing problem. As freestanding medical facilities pop up to offer procedures that have traditionally been offered in a hospital operating room, patients are drawn to the cozier environment and lack of a hospital feel. But these facilities usually do not have the advanced equipment of an emergency room; when something goes wrong, a patient facing an emergency needs to be transported to the nearest hospital. This wait can be fatal.

There is a general lack of data to prove that freestanding medical clinics are safe. But according to a study published in the journal Anesthesiology last December, out of nearly 250,000 outpatient surgeries examined, 232 of the patients experienced major complications within three days and 21 of those patients died.

Some of the risk factors among the patients who experienced complications included obesity, history of stroke, and prior heart surgery.

Some experts believe that elderly patients are not good candidates for treatment at freestanding medical clinics because they are more frail than younger patients and bounce back less easily. In a situation where a younger patient can survive the transport to a hospital for emergency treatment, an elderly patient’s condition is more likely to degrade too quickly to survive the wait.

Joan Rivers, for example, was 81 when she died and some medical professionals who have weighed in have suggested that she would have survived if she had been on-site at a hospital for her procedure.

Need a medical malpractice lawyer in NYC?

The Sanders Firm has been helping victims of medical malpractice for nearly five decades. Our New York medical malpractice attorneys have earned a reputation across the industry as being aggressive and tireless advocates with a track record of winning verdicts.

If you or a loved one have been injured by NY medical clinic malpractice, call free a free consultation with one of our New York medical malpractice attorneys.


  1. New York Daily News, State investigating New York City clinic where Joan Rivers ceased breathing during procedure, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/state-probing-nyc-clinic-joan-rivers-ceased-breathing-article-1.1927822

  2. CNN, Joan Rivers’ doctor denies ‘unauthorized procedure,’ selfie before cardiac arrest, http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/18/showbiz/joan-rivers-clinic-probe/

  3. Bloomberg, Death of Joan Rivers Spotlights Risks for Elderly at Centers, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-12/rivers-death-spotlights-risks-for-elderly-at-centers.html