It appears all was not well with the procedure done on Joan Rivers that eventually led to her death two weeks ago. An ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding her cardiac arrest during a vocal cord procedure has revealed several irregularities that may have contributed to the fatal complication.
Apparently the procedure was being performed because of a persistent sore throat and voice hoarseness Rivers was experiencing at the time. The purpose of the endoscopy was to identify any signs of a possible cause in the throat by directly looking at the various structures. According to this CNN report, the physician performing the endoscopy saw something and handed control over to Rivers’ personal ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
This physician examined Rivers’ vocal cords and determined the need for a biopsy of what he saw. The problem is that Rivers never consented to having a biopsy taken, even if one may have been needed. In addition, the ENT specialist hadn’t gone through the requisite credentials check prior to performing the procedure at the facility. Additionally, representatives of the endoscopy suite have stated that such biopsies are not performed at the facility, indicating they may not have been adequately prepared to address any complications that arose.
At this point, something went wrong and Rivers’ airway became blocked, depriving her of oxygen and eventually causing her heart to stop. A New York Times article indicates that this may have been a side effect from the propofol used to sedate Rivers during the procedure or due to laryngospasm where the vocal cords snap shut when disturbed to protect the airway from foreign bodies among other possibilities. Details about the exact complication have not been made available.
While help arrived at the clinic minutes after the initial 911 call was made, Rivers was already in danger. Older adults have little reserve when deprived of oxygen. In spite of the CPR continuously provided, at 81, Rivers’ brain was already likely incurring damage.
In addition to the medical details, a disturbing side note has surfaced from those present at the procedure. The personal ENT physician performing the procedure reportedly took a selfie with Joan Rivers sedated in the background before starting.
It’s important to recognize that a biopsy may indeed have been indicated based on the findings of the endoscopy but without consent, the procedure should have ended and a second procedure scheduled at a properly licensed facility with Rivers’ agreement. Tune in to The Doctor Oz Show tomorrow afternoon to learn more from Dr. Oz about these details and more as the story unfolds.