What Went Wrong? Could Joan Rivers Have Been Saved?

Could the death of Joan Rivers have been prevented? INSIDE EDITION speaks to one doctor about what may have gone wrong and precautions everyone should take regarding outpatient procedures.

Could Joan Rivers have been saved?

Last Thursday, August 28, she was having an endoscopy at an Outpatient Endoscopy clinic on New York’s Upper East Side. Then, something went horribly wrong.  

Dr. Roshini Raj is Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU. She told INSIDE EDITION, “When you're manipulating the throat, touching the throat with a scope, you may cause some irritation that leads to swelling.”

Hear More From Dr. Raj

Joan was believed to be under anesthesia, reportedly Propofol, the same medication involved in the death of Michael Jackson.

Dr. Raj said, “Propofol is generally very safe, but as we've seen with Michael Jackson and other unfortunate circumstances, Propofol is a powerful drug and it can potentially cause unfortunate events.”

Sources say Rivers’ crisis truly began when her throat seized during the procedure. She stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.

Dr. Raj said, “If someone's throat swells up, it literally could start closing up and that will impede the flow of air. They don't get oxygen. They stop breathing.”

She was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital just eight blocks away. But with cardiac arrest, every second counts. Now, many are wondering whether it was too risky for Joan Rivers, who was 81 years old, to have her procedure at the clinic instead of a hospital.

“You do take age into account. But there is no strict age cutoff. So it doesn't mean just because someone is at a certain age, that it can't be done in an outpatient setting. The overall health of the person is more important,” said Dr. Raj.

Joan arrived in critical condition. She was put into a medically induced coma and was said to be resting comfortably. But she was put on life support.

Two days ago, she was moved out of intensive care into a private room. Dr. Raj says the family probably knew the end was near.

“It's quite unusual to go from cardiac arrest and the ICU to a private room if things are going well,” she said.

On Thursday, Joan’s daughter, Melissa had to make the toughest decision of her life—To take her mother off life support. In a statement Melissa said "She died peacefully at 1:17 p.m."

Dr. Raj says there's nothing, at this time, that suggests the clinic did anything wrong. But she stresses all medical procedures carry some risk. And there's a lesson that all of us can learn from the Joan Rivers tragedy.

Dr. Raj said, “If you are someone who has chronic medical issues, certainly if they affect your breathing or your heart, you want to really talk to your personal doctor about whether it's safe for you to have this test done in an outpatient setting, versus a hospital or not have it at all.”