Unfortunately, many initiatives to make medical practices safer usually only come after there has already been a loss. As a clinic in New York is finding out, the untimely death of a comedic legend was the unfortunate event that is now leading to a major push to adopt safer clinic practices.
In 2014, comedic legend Joan Rivers visited a New York clinic to undergo the relatively minor procedure of an upper endoscopy. For the procedure Rivers was having, a small camera was to be passed through her mouth and into her esophagus. Although this procedure is relatively minor, the route the camera takes requires the patient to be under anesthesia. According to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by Rivers' daughter, it was this sedation and procedure that resulted in her mother's cardiac arrest and subsequent death.
The comedian's death has prompted members of the organization Citizens for Safe Endoscopy (CSE) to push the clinic to adopt safer practices for esophageal endoscopy. CSE is urging doctors to advise patients about safer alternatives to the traditional upper endoscopy. One such alternative, the transnasal esophagoscopy, would have allowed Rivers' doctors to view her esophagus without the need for her to be sedated. CSE members believe this alternative will help spare the lives of those at risk for anesthesia-related complications.
Endoscopic and anesthesia-related complications are unfortunately common. Until clinics adopt safer practices that reduce this threat, patients may protect themselves by asking their doctors about any safer alternatives to these procedures. Individuals and family members that suffer a loss due to these risky procedures may benefit by speaking to a medical malpractice attorney.