What Took Place That Cost Joan Rivers Her Life

When people think about situations involving medical malpractice, they normally call to mind situations where a lead doctor or other attending physician has made a grave error, either in procedure or judgment. In reality, anyone involved with a particular procedure can commit malpractice if things don’t go exactly the way they should.

malpracticeBecause anesthesia is such an important part of medical procedures, this role comes with a huge amount of responsibility. Despite this, it is still possible for some people to betray their Hippocratic oath and take things a step too far.

Perhaps the most famous recent case has to do with the untimely death of Joan Rivers, the famous comedian who had a career in Hollywood that spanned decades. Rivers died on Sept. 4 after going into cardiac arrest during an unauthorized medical procedure. She was 81 years old.

In the Rivers case in particular, it was a perfect storm of accidents that directly contributed to the comedy legend’s untimely demise. Regarding the anesthesiologist, who has since been identified as Renuka Reddy Bankulla, this professional was supposed to continually monitor Rivers for signs of distress. One of the most important functions that an anesthesiologist performs during any type of medical procedure involves watching not only the patient’s heart rate, but also their blood pressure and other important vital signs.

Despite this, it turned out that the anesthesiologist was doing nothing of the sort. Instead of giving Rivers 300 milligrams of the drug Propofol, as was indicated in medical records, she only administered 120 milligrams. Bankulla recently indicated that she had accidentally made a mistake when entering information into the computerized records that the hospital kept. She also did not properly record Rivers’ weight at the time of the procedure, which is one of the most important factors that an anesthesiologist needs to consider before administering medication in any dosage.

Medical professionals now agree that had Bankulla performed her duties as an anesthesiologist, she could have acted in time to save Rivers before her untimely death. At the very least she could have quickly noticed that Rivers’ vital signs were deteriorating, at which point action could have been taken to help stop a bad problem before it got even worse.

In Rivers’ case, the issue also extends beyond the anesthesiologist in question and towards other members of the medical staff. There are additional allegations that during the unauthorized trans-nasal laryngoscopy procedure, the comedian’s doctor left the room during the integral moments when Rivers began to go into cardiac arrest. The doctor in question, Dr. Gwen Korovin, has been sued in a separate lawsuit by Melissa Rivers on the grounds of malpractice. The lawsuit indicates that had the doctor not left the procedure room, assistance and advice could have been offered to potentially avert the tragic events that took place.

This is just one of the many examples of why it is so important to have a highly trained and professional anesthesiologist in the room during medical procedures at all times. In addition to administering medication, they are often the last line of defense between a medical staff and malpractice in the event that errors occur.


abeo Management Corporation (abeo) serves as a leading source of revenue cycle management and practice management with a specialization in anesthesia. The company leverages its people, processes, and software to serve independent practices, surgery centers, hospitals and healthcare systems with a scope of services that include billing, coding, transcription, practice management, and business consulting.

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