An Indian-origin anesthesiologist is among five medical personnel who have been slapped with a multi-million dollar lawsuit here in connection with the death of American actor and comedian Joan Rivers.
The lawsuit has been filed in New York State Supreme Court by Rivers's daughter Melissa Rivers against New York clinic Yorkville Endoscopy, the Frontier Healthcare, which has partial ownership of the clinic as well as Rivers's personal physician Gail Korovin, doctor Lawrence Cohen, anesthesiologists Renuka Bankulla, Robert Koniuta and Suzanne Scarola.
Bankulla is a board-certified anesthesiologist who attended medical school in India and trained in New York hospitals.
Rivers, 81, died in September last year of brain damage caused by a loss of oxygen during a routine outpatient procedure where doctors were supposed to do an endoscopy and examine her esophagus for possible causes of voice changes.
Her daughter said in a statement that she filed the lawsuit so that "no family should ever have to go through what my mother... and I have been through. The level of medical mismanagement, incompetency, disrespect and outrageous behaviour is shocking and frankly, almost incomprehensible. Not only did my mother deserve better, every patient deserves better. It is my goal to make sure that this kind of horrific medical treatment never
happens to anyone again," the 47-year old author and TV producer said.
The lawsuit claims that the doctors were busy taking cell phone pictures of their famous patient and did not notice that her vital signs plummeted.
It said Bankulla had raised concerns over Rivers' situation and had urged caution after noticing "incredible edema", or swelling, in Rivers' throat.
However, Bankulla's pleas to halt the medical procedure were ignored by the doctor, the New York Daily News said.
Bankulla had suggested taking an internal picture to gauge how bad the swelling was, the suit said. "You're being paranoid ... You're such a curious cat. You always need to see everything," Cohen told her, before proceeding over her objections, the suit said.
Rivers left the clinic in a coma and died seven days later. Bankulla had in 2005 faced a malpractice lawsuit in the Bronx where a mother died in childbirth while undergoing a C-section. Bankulla and Bronx Lebanon Hospital ultimately settled the lawsuit for $4 million.
Bankulla's lawyer Bruce Brady said in the Daily News report that the 2005 case never went to trial and his client was not even deposed.
"The case was settled by the hospital without any input from her. She was never given the opportunity to testify at trial. It's unfair to bring up an incident that happened 16 years ago that has nothing to do with the Joan Rivers situation," he said.
Brady said that no jury has ever found that Bankulla has committed malpractice.