Melissa Rivers sues clinic and five doctors involved with her mother’s fatal surgery

Melissa Rivers and Joan Rivers
In the wake of Joan River’s death there were multiple stories about the incompetence of the various doctors involved in the endoscopy which ultimately killed her. We know that Joan River’s personal physician, ENT to the stars Dr. Gwen Korovin, accompanied her to the clinic and performed an unauthorized vocal cord biopsy while Joan was under. Korovin was not accredited to perform surgery at that clinic and she did not have Joan’s written consent to do the additional procedure. We’ve also heard that someone took cell phone photos of Joan while she was under, that doctors failed to act when Joan’s vitals indicated that she was in distress, and that the clinic lacked the basic medication to revive her.

According to a new lawsuit filed by Joan’s daughter, Melissa Rivers, the actual conditions that led to Joan’s death were even worse than we’ve heard. The lawsuit claims that, despite multiple warnings from the anesthesiologist that Joan was in trouble, her personal physician and the clinic doctor decided to proceed with the surgery. The doctor at the clinic was the one who photographed Joan’s surgery on his cell phone. A tracheotomy, which could have saved Joan’s life, was never performed. What’s more is that Joan’s physician actually left the facility after she did the surgery. It’s possible she didn’t realize that Joan was in danger, but she still looks incredibly incompetent.

Melissa’s multi-million dollar lawsuit names the clinic, Yorkville Endoscopy, and multiple doctors involved in her mother’s care. Here’s more:

Melissa Rivers said she filed the lawsuit because of her “unwavering belief” that no family should ever have to go through what “my mother, Cooper and I have been through.”

“The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behavior is shocking and frankly almost incomprehensible.

“Not only did my mother deserve better, every patient deserves better,” she said.

“Melissa wants to make sure that this never happens to anyone else. Ambulatory care centers need to have the same oversight that hospitals have to ensure that patients are treated properly,” said Ben Rubinowitz, one of the family’s lawyers.

Yorkville Endoscopy, the East 93rd Street clinic where Rivers was seen as an outpatient, came under heavy fire from state and federal health officials after the August 28 operation.

Investigators discovered that the clinic’s medical director, Lawrence Cohen, allowed River’s private doctor, celebrity ear-nose-and-throat specialist Gwen Korovin, to do the unauthorized biopsy windpipe examination even though Korovin wasn’t cleared to work at the clinic.

Bankulla objected when Korovin entered the room for the procedure, but was overruled by Cohen.

Korovin started things off by trying to insert a scope into the sedated Rivers’ nose to take pictures of her throat, but pulled out, saying she couldn’t get a clear view, the suit said.

Cohen then proceeded with the routine endoscopy — at which point Rivers’ blood pressure, heart rate, pulse level and oxygen level all dropped. The carbon dioxide levels in her blood went up, the suit said.

At some point between 9:26 a.m. and 9:47 a.m., Korovin said she was going in again, according to court papers.

That’s when Bankulla tried again to intervene — citing Rivers’ badly swollen throat — and was dismissed.

As Korovin began inserting the scope for a second time, Cohen started taking cell phone pictures of the celebrity doctor at work, the lawsuit alleged.

Rivers’ oxygen levels and heart rate sank — signs of a likely airway obstruction, the suit said.

As the team realized the seriousness of the problem, they called a Code Blue — but never administered a muscle relaxant that might have unlocked the muscle in Rivers’ throat, nor did they cut into her windpipe to let air into her body.

Instead, Cohen did frantic chest compressions; Bankulla tried but failed to intubate Rivers, and two other anesthesiologists, Koniuta and Scarola, rushed in to help with the hand pump to push air into her lungs.

They worked for 17 minutes before Bankulla called for a tracheotomy kit — but it was never used.

When Bankulla looked for Korovin, who could have done the emergency tracheotomy, she was nowhere to be found. Rivers’ doctor had left the room, the suit said.

By the time EMS got Rivers to Mt. Sinai Hospital, she had already suffered irreversible brain damage, the suit said.

[From The NY Daily News]

While the anesthesiologist did try to intervene, she may have also hastened Joan’s death by giving her even more of the powerful anesthetic Propofol after her vitals dropped. The scenario makes everyone involved sound like celebrity hangers-on who disregarded medical protocols multiple times. Why did it take them over 15 minutes to even consider performing a tracheotomy? I feel so badly for Melissa and hope that she has a favorable outcome to this lawsuit. This whole story makes me very skeptical of my loved ones undergoing any medical procedure. RIP Joan. We missed you ripping on the bad SAGs fashion.

Mother and daughter JOAN (r) and MELISSA RIVERS join the TV Guide Channel. USA. July 2004. Picture supplied by:WENN

Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers

Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers from 1992

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29 Responses to “Melissa Rivers sues clinic and five doctors involved with her mother’s fatal surgery”

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  1. Frida_K says:

    I hope that she sues them until they go out of business. The way they behaved and the consequences that ensued are well within the territory of unforgivable offense.

    Poor Melissa and Cooper. I’m so sorry for their loss.

    • holly hobby says:

      They are already going to go under. The US govt revoked their license or something like that.

      • Sassy says:

        They are no longer able to treat Medicare patients. That doesn’t mean that they cannot accept other medical insurance. So – not out of business.

  2. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I hope she shuts them down for good. This was not just incompetence, but blatant disregard for Joan’s life and dignity. It makes me so sad. It would be hard enough to lose your mother, but to know that it was due to such disrespect and inexcusable behavior would make it so much worse.

  3. Krista says:

    Good. I hope she guts that practice. My fiancé was nearly killed by his ENTs negligence and we never got so much as an apology.
    Dismissive doctors sicken me.

  4. aims says:

    I hope Melissa goes after all their money and that these hacks get their medical license revoked. The whole procedure was botched and sadly we lost Joan. Their behavior was grossly inappropriate and neglectful. It sounds so bizarre that it’s hard to believe. Go after their money and shut them down so they can’t do this to someone else.

  5. Carrie says:

    God I hope she cleans them out good.

  6. Anniefannie says:

    Her personal Dr pushes her way in , performs a procedure that wasn’t approved and then disappears when it all goes south? There wouldn’t be enough $$ in the world to satisfy me but I hope she gets it all and their licenses!!

    • Kiki04 says:

      As much as I hope she takes them to the cleaners, I’ll be happiest if those people are never allowed to work again. This is beyond something horrible happening during a procedure, this is just medical incompetence

  7. Megan says:

    I can’t believe the practice is even in business at this point. Who would consent to be treated there?

    • FingerBinger says:

      I can’t believe it’s still open either. It’s been investigated by the NYC health department and it lost it’s federal accreditation,which means it won’t get any government money. I can’t even imagine they still have any patients.

  8. Jess says:

    My God, this is just awful. I’m so glad she’s suing, I think a lot of lawsuits these days are frivolous and some people are just after money, but this is a situation where everyone involved needs to lose their job and pay out the a*s, a woman lost her life because of stupidity and that should never happen again.

    It sounds like the person who took pictures was almost trying to have evidence, or am I reading that wrong? Still a weird and illegal thing to do.

    • suze says:

      I thought the same thing. Not taking pictures of the celebrity but documentation as to who was doing what…. but if you’re taking cell phone pictures for evidence, something bad is going down and you’re thinking of protecting ‘your’ interest.

  9. Kiddo says:

    I still can’t get over how Melissa’s face changes were in direct proportion of Joan’s. In the end, they still looked alike, even though Joan looked nothing like the original Joan.

    I’m glad she’s suing because clearly there was negligence. But I hope she also takes to heart how serious procedures can be.

    • Carrie says:

      Right? and you can see Melissa’s bad face lift pulling at the temples in the photo from the TV Guide carpet thing.

      But yeah the level of incompetence was astounding.

  10. PunkyMomma says:

    The level of neglect and blatant disregard of the well-being of their patient should cause all those professionals involved to lose their licenses/certifications. I even question the decision to perform this procedure in a clinical setting – it should have been performed in a hospital.

    Joan is gone and nothing can return her to her family, but I hope Melissa cleans the clocks of these incompetent people. Maybe other clinicians will take note, maybe someone will be spared this tragedy.

  11. Brin says:

    Agree with all above comments. Close these guys down.

  12. Kiki04 says:

    This is just heartbreaking. People like this shouldn’t be allowed to be doctors. Especially her doctor that didn’t bother to get consent? Nail in the coffin right there, stupidest move ever from someone who supposedly does procedures all their life.

    Plus, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that probably none of them KNEW how to use a trach kit. A clinic like that probably isn’t equipped to handle anything that doesn’t go just peachy.

  13. scout says:

    Their med licenses should be cancelled forever, should never be able to practice medicine ever again in any state in USA. Every life is precious.

  14. GingerCrunch says:

    Ugh, Ugh, UGHHHH! I was sickened reading the details of this lawsuit. Truly sickened. And yes, take their licenses and bankrupt them! Hopefully they’ll be ruined. I’d like to see them behind bars. Does that ever happen with doctors?

  15. maeliz says:

    I hope she gets them for all she can. These are awful people who need to be out of business forever. So sorry she didn’t get to bring her mother home

  16. jammypants says:

    This is terrifying and sickening. You put your life in their hands and they are obviously not suited for the job. They deserve to close shop.

  17. kri says:

    Oh my god. Dr. Korovin basically..ran away? Abandoned her patient at the worst time?? And the other one took photos, but couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to her vitals? This is a medical murder. So sickening and scary.

  18. Lucky says:

    I’m not a litigious person at all, but I hope they throw the book at these hacks and Melissa gets a ton of $$$!

  19. Tiffany says:


  20. The Original G says:

    Unfortunately, heart breaking medical mistakes happen. But, this case just seems to have been entirely preventable. The hubris and the casual response to the emergency they caused is mind-blowing.

  21. savu says:

    Good. I’ve gotten sucked into marathons of their reality show on Oxygen, and it showed you just how loving of a woman she was. And Melissa really relied on her for support. So much love for her and her family.

  22. Ava says:

    So sad….joan will be missed by many.

  23. Jennifer says:

    Ambulatory surgery centers are quite scary!