The September 4 death of 81-year-old comedian Joan Rivers during a routine medical procedure on her throat was a tragic surprise. Her daughter, Melissa, has hired a law firm to seek answers on whether malpractice occurred and to determine whether a medical malpractice lawsuit is feasible. The beginning of this process shows the complications and planning associated with the filing a civil action in New York when negligence or recklessness was believed to cause the death of a family member.
According to the New York City Medical Examiner, the death was caused by a predictable complication during the procedure. Questions were raised on why the clinic conducted the procedure in an office instead of a hospital because of the patient’s age and why it did not perform emergency-intervention techniques, such as CPR or a combat tracheotomy, sooner.
The American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory made an unannounced visit to the medical office; it discovered deficiencies in the clinic’s procedures. There are also allegations that Rivers’ doctor performed an unauthorized laryngoscopy involving the use of a device to view vocal chords. Her doctor denies this.
Rivers’ lawyers requested that the clinic and doctors preserve records and phone logs. To continue with a wrongful death lawsuit, Melissa Rivers will have to file in probate court. An executor will then be appointed who will have authority to obtain the medical records which are prohibited from disclosure under federal HIPAA laws.
After the executor is appointed and the medical records are analyzed, a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. Doctors and other medical personnel at the surgery can be examined at depositions to determine what happened.
This process may not be strictly intended on obtaining damages. These actions are also filed to obtain answers on the cause of death of a loved one. If the clinic and physicians followed proper procedures, Ms. Rivers may have died from normal complications from surgery conducted on an older patient.
As this demonstrates, a wrongful death lawsuit during a medical procedure or fatal accident is complex and requires assistance to determine the facts and commence legal process. Prompt advice will help assure that a family’s right to compensation is preserved.
Source: Forbes, “Why Did Joan Rivers Die? Melissa Rivers Seeks Answers,” Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Oct. 29, 2014