Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Finger Pointing Begins. The Joan Rivers Malpractice Lawsuit

You knew it would come to this. For all the talk about medical staff teamwork in the operating room, when the sh** hits the fan, each person is on his own, trying to save his own butt from the wrathful vengeance of the malpractice attorney. In the medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the late Joan Rivers's daughter, each doctor is now essentially blaming each other for the comedienne's untimely death last September 4th during a simple endoscopy.

During the official investigation following her demise, a note was found in the chart that was handwritten by the anesthesiologist, Dr. Renuka Bankulla, that said she tried to find the ENT surgeon who had performed the laryngoscopy and possible vocal cord biopsy, Dr. Gwen Korovin, when Ms. Rivers went into cardiac and respiratory arrest. However Dr. Bakulla couldn't find Dr. Korovin in the room to perform a cricothyrotomy to open up the patient's airway even though she was there only minutes prior to the arrest. The suit speculates the Dr. Korovin fled the room at the first sign of trouble because she was not credentialed to perform procedures at the Yorkville Endoscopy center.

The attorney for Dr. Korovin counters that she was in the room all along. In fact, the faithful doctor was the last person to leave the room when the patient was taken away by ambulance. Just because the anesthesiologist didn't see her doesn't mean she had left the room. However, Ms. Rivers's lawyer wonders why, when Joan wasn't able to get any air into her lungs, the surgeon didn't take over the airway and performed the emergency operation. Said Jeffrey Bloom, the attorney, "She's an airway specialist. Why isn't she stepping forward and saying 'I'll do it' or 'You do it'. Instead she obviously did nothing."

Naturally much more will come out as the lawsuit proceeds. More witnesses will be testifying as to the whereabouts of Dr. Korovin, including the testimonials from the GI doctor and two other anesthesiologists and nurses that were in the room when disaster struck.

This is an important lesson for all anesthesiologists. You may think you are good buddies with your favorite surgeon, going out and playing golf or fishing together. Maybe you send each other Christmas cards or your children play soccer on the same junior high team. But when trouble hits, that friendship will quickly dissolve into acrimony.

A few years ago, one of our anesthesiologists was working with a highly likeable orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon was always friendly and loved to tell corny jokes in the operating room. Everybody wanted to work him. Then one day, after a simple joint procedure on an elderly female patient, the surgeon wrote a narcotics order after she had already been transferred out of recovery and to the floor. The patient consequently had an unwitnessed respiratory arrest and died. The inevitable malpractice suit was filed and now the surgeon was blaming the anesthesiologist for oversedating the patient while in recovery leading to the arrest from a routine narcotics order when she went to her room. That happy face mask quickly disappeared when facing a multimillion dollar lawsuit. A tough education no anesthesiologist should forget.

1 comment:

  1. Yep...."Anesthesiologists. There are no substitutes.