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Death of Joan Rivers prompts medical safety questions in New York

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

After the death of comedian Joan Rivers in a New York outpatient center, some officials have questioned the safety of medical procedures done in these types of facilities in the state. According to media sources, the 81-year-old comedian went in for a low-risk surgery on her vocal chords at an outpatient facility. Complications occurred, and she was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital. She was later declared deceased by medical staff. An autopsy has not yet confirmed the cause of death, and the incident is reported to be under investigation by the New York State Health Department.

Outpatient facilities routinely perform procedures that were previously done only in hospitals and surgical centers. Under New York law, such facilities are required to report the occurrence of any event in which a patient is harmed during care. Between the years 2010 and 2013, approximately 1,000 credited facilities reported about 2,200 events, and more than 250 of those incidents resulted in death.

Due to the figure, a new measure was proposed in 2013 by the Cuomo Administration. It would have strengthened the requirements for reporting adverse incident and increased the oversight of outpatient centers, especially in regards to anesthesia use. However, the measure was rejected by lawmakers.

Questions about the adequacy of health care are not limited to outpatient facilities. It has been estimated that as many as 200,000 to 400,000 deaths occur in the U.S. each year as the result of medical errors made in hospitals.

Medical mistakes can lead to severe injuries, which could lead to a diminished quality of life for the patient. In some cases, errors result in death. Anyone who was injured during a surgical procedure or who has lost a loved one as the result of negligent hospital care may want to speak with an attorney about the possibility of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: WAMC, “Blair Horner: Medical Safety In New York“, Blair Horner, September 08, 2014

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