Four Lessons Learned from Death of Joan Rivers: Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety Advises Patients Even “Minor” Surgery Can Have Major Risks

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The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) released today four lessons learned from the death of comedian Joan Rivers. The recent death of Joan Rivers is a reminder that even “minor” procedures can have major risks and “hidden harm”.

Four Lessons Learned from Joan Rivers' Death

Although many questions remain about the exact cause of Joan River’s death, her passing has made it abundantly clear that no surgical procedure can be – or should be – considered absolutely safe.

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The Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety (PPAHS) released today four lessons learned from the death of comedian Joan Rivers.

The recent death of Joan Rivers is a reminder that even “minor” procedures can have major risks and “hidden harm”.
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Michael Wong, JD Executive Director, PPAHS, says, “Although many questions remain about the exact cause of Joan River’s death, her passing has made it abundantly clear that no surgical procedure can be – or should be – considered absolutely safe.”

The four lessons learned may help patients be better prepared for safe medical procedures, including making sure you are monitored electronically, with both pulse oximetry and capnography, if you are to receive sedation, opioids or anesthesia.

Kenneth P. Rothfield, M.D., M.B.A., Chairman, Department of Anesthesiology, Saint Agnes Hospital (Baltimore, MD) cautions that monitoring standards are not the same for all medical specialties:

“Virtually all proceduralists use pulse oximetry to measure blood oxygen levels, Assessing ventilation is another story. Being able to tell by simple observation if a patient is breathing adequately or not during a procedure can be tricky. Surprisingly, standards for capnography monitoring are not the same for all medical specialists. Anesthesiologists, the recognized experts in administering sedation and anesthesia, are required by the American Society of Anesthesiologists to measure the adequacy of ventilation using capnography (a device which measures exhaled carbon dioxide) to provide breath-by-breath monitoring. Other specialists, such as gastroenterlogists and dentists, are not required to use this technology. Without capnography, several critical minutes can elapse after a patient stops breathing before medical professionals are alerted to the situation, Unfortunately, by this time, a serious problem, or even a cardiac arrest may occur."

For more on the four lessons, please click here.

About Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety

Physician-Patient Alliance for Health & Safety is a non-profit 501(c)(3) whose mission is to promote safer clinical practices and standards for patients through collaboration among healthcare experts, professionals, scientific researchers, and others, in order to improve health care delivery. For more information, please go to http://www.ppahs.org.

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