Unexpected Death at a Surgical Center: Was Joan Rivers at Risk?
It’s still shocking for her many fans and even her detractors that Joan River’s acerbic wit will not be heard live again. The famous comedienne died unexpectedly from complications during a simple endoscopy procedure to evaluate her vocal cords because of a raspy voice. Her procedure was done at Yorkville Endoscopy, an accredited New York City surgical center that is now under investigation by the New York State Health Department.
Her death raises questions about how such surgical centers are accredited and if the facility has regulations in place to ensure patient safety. While health departments in each state oversee both outpatient and ambulatory centers, regulations and standards vary. Just under half of states, including New York, require these surgical centers to be accredited by such groups as American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, the Centers for Medicare, or Medicaid Services’ accreditation program. Licensing of outpatient and ambulatory facilities also varies state by state as do doctor qualifications and credentials.
How can you be sure you are receiving care in the best possible setting?
Start by asking your surgeon the following questions:
- Is your outpatient or ambulatory facility accredited?
- Is the doctor board-certified?
- What is the emergency plan if a complication should occur?
- Are agreements in place for admission to a nearby hospital?
- Are support staff available (nurses and technicians) for more complex procedures?
And finally, to reduce risk from any surgery, make sure you have a good pre-op evaluation, especially if you are over age 50. While nothing can guarantee a complication-free procedure, learning more about the surgical facility, your doctor’s credentials, and your own state of health certainly reduces risk. (Esana only uses accredited surgical centers and board-certified surgeons.)