Joan Rivers Cause Of Death: Lack of Oxygen

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The New York City medical examiner’s office reports that comedian, Joan Rivers, died from complications due to surgery. From spokesperson Julie Bolcer, via The Hollywood Reporter:

“OCME [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] has completed its investigation. The cause of Ms. Rivers’ death is anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest during laryngoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy with propofol sedation for evaluation of voice changes and gastroesophageal reflux disease. The manner of death is therapeutic complication. The classification of a death as a therapeutic complication means that the death resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy.”

Basically, there are risks when a patient goes under sedation. One of those risks is death. Unfortunately, Joan was in that small percentage who don’t survive sedation. Once she lost oxygen to the brain, which is what happened here, there was likely little chance she would recover.

A laryngoscopy is “a procedure in which a doctor examines the back of the throat and vocal cords,” explained The Hollywood Reporter. Joan had been complaining about recent changes to her voice. An upper gastrointestinal endoscopy “involves looking at the upper gastrointestinal tract with a light.”

In a statement released to the press, Joan’s daughter, Melissa Rivers, said: “We continue to be saddened by our tragic loss and grateful for the enormous outpouring of love and support from around the world. We have no further comment at this time.”

Joan Rivers died in New York City on September 4, days after the procedures, which are considered routine.

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Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!


  1. I don’t know. I suppose if I had to venture a guess I would assume she was over sedated. These are very short procedures and the anesthesia is such that you are not even very groggy when you wake up. With all her cosmetic surgeries I’m sure she had been sedated many times before and for much longer periods. It’s sad any way you look at it.

  2. This is pretty sad, since it seems like this was done as an outpatient at a clinic, vs being in a hospital setting. I can’t fathom why such an elderly person wouldn’t be intubated (thus having no chance of hypoxia unless she had another complication like cardiac arrest, excessive laryngeal hemorrhage if biopsied or embolism) during this procedure. Of course you would have to remove the endotracheal tube to do full laryngoscopy but you could do endoscopy first, get her well oxygenated then remove tube quickly, do the laryngoscopy/biopsy and replace tube until you were sure she was stable. That is what would be done for someone’s pet.

    It is routine to have an endoscopy without being intubated-I’ve had it done myself (although it seems a combination of a narcotic and Versed are what is most commonly used, with less respiratory depression complications) but in such an aged person …..Of course medical complications always occur, are part of the deal-even risk of death but doing this kind of procedure under just Propofol does not sound ideal.

  3. Yes the procedure was done at a clinic called Yorkville Endoscopy. When she stopped breathing she was rushed over to the hospital. I’ll never understand why someone her age didnt have this procedure done at a hospital. There’s so much to this story since this happened that makes me shake my head including the rumor that the doctor who performed this took a damn selfie at some point while Joan was sedated.

  4. It is pretty sad. I know that procedures such as endoscopies are done at the hospital and not the outpatient clinic if there is high risk for complications, like other illnesses and especially age. This way if a complication does occur, they are already at the hospital, and there is more of a chance to save the patient. It would be even more sad if there were a chance she could have been saved if she were at the hospital instead of the outpatient clinic.

  5. Not sure what to think. Surgery and anesthesia are very risky and she was an elderly patient.

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