81-year-old comic legend Joan Rivers died in September as a result of an outpatient medical procedure going awry. Due to Ms. Rivers’ iconic status and coming several years after one of the highest profile medical malpractice cases in modern history (Michael Jackson’s death), it was inevitable that media speculation regarding issues of medical malpractice would quickly reach a fever pitch.
The federal agency known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has conducted an investigation as to what exactly transpired while Ms. Rivers was under the care of the Yorkville Endoscopy Clinic. The report’s findings highlight numerous errors made by the clinic’s staff in the time period leading up to Ms. Rivers’ cardiac arrest while on the operating table.
Failure To Properly Monitor Blood Pressure
The report states that “The physicians in charge of the care of the patient failed to identify deteriorating vital signs and provide timely intervention during the procedure.” Apparently, Ms. Rivers’ blood pressure and pulse decreased rapidly during a 14-minute time window, with an attempt at cardiopulmonary resuscitation not beginning until at least 16 minutes after Ms. Rivers’ pulse first began to drop.
The report lists a litany of other transgressions, including an issue around the record of dosage and usage of Propofol (the same anesthetic involved in the Jackson case). There were also missteps identified in allowing Ms. Rivers’ ENT, MD, who was not credentialed to work at the clinic, to perform a procedure that Ms. Rivers had not previously consented to.
Negligence Must Be Proven In Medical Malpractice Cases
Although Ms. Rivers did die as a result of undergoing a medical procedure in the clinic on the day in question, the lawsuit that will be filed by her family will still have to prove that negligence on the part of the medical providers was a fact. An unfortunate outcome involving injury to or death of a patient is not in and of itself seen by the court as a sufficient event for recovery of a medical malpractice award of damages.
Generally, it is the burden of the plaintiff in the case (in the case of Ms. Rivers, most likely her only adult daughter, Melissa, will be the plaintiff) to illuminate to the court what the state’s statutes define as a “prevailing professional standard of care” and then prove that the resulting care received by the victim fell short of that standard.
Florida’s Definition Of The Reasonable Physician Standard
Florida law defines the prevailing professional standard of care as “that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”
The statutes have been interpreted by the court to mean that the court will not compare the actions of the medical provider in question to the highest or best level of care potentially available, but rather the court will evaluate the situation based on expectation of reasonable performance.
It would seem that in the case of Ms. Rivers, the attending physician’s failure to respond more quickly to what has been documented as her rapidly declining pulse over the course of a 14-minute time period would indicate some level of negligence as defined by the reasonable physician standard. However, that will be for a New York state court to ultimately decide.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the wrongful conduct of another anywhere in the state of Florida, contact Reed & Reed.
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