The tragic death of comedy legend Joan Rivers has raised questions about the level of care she received when she underwent what should have been a routine operation. The famously sharp-tongued Rivers died after being rushed to hospital when she had a cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure to remove nodules from her throat.
The New York Department of Health has now launched an investigation into the clinic where the star’s procedure was performed. Medical investigators are said to be examining whether a dose of propofol, the same drug which killed Michael Jackson, could be behind her death. While no-one has been found to be at fault so far, the case has echoes of some terrible medical mistakes suffered by other celebrities:
In what is probably the most well-known case of celebrity medical negligence, the king of pop was given a fatal drugs overdose by Dr Conrad Murray. Murray was jailed for four years after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson an overdose of propofol, which caused the singer’s heart to stop. Dr Murray has since denied that Jackson’s death was his fault, saying: “I never gave Michael anything that would kill him. I loved him. I still do. I always will.”
As the star of Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews had one of the most recognised, and most loved, singing voices on the planet. But, the Oscar-winning actress says her voice hasn’t been the same since she had an operation to remove nodules from her throat. Andrews sued and had a claim against the medic who carried out the procedure settled. The star is suitably philosophical about not now being able to hit certain notes though, having pursued a writing and directing career. “When one door closes another window opens,” she said.
Men Behaving Badly actress Leslie Ash has endured taunts about her so-called “trout pout” for years. But that was nothing compared to the medical mishap she received £5m in compensation for. Ash was admitted to hospital with cracked ribs after falling from her bed onto a table while making love to her husband. There, she contracted MSSA, a strain of MRSA which does not respond to standard antibiotics. The cash awarded included compensation for acting work Leslie, who still walks with a stick, missed out on as a result of ill health.
Wrestler Hulk Hogan is embroiled in a lawsuit against a spinal clinic he says has made his back problems worse rather than better. The star is suing for $50m in lost earnings following a handful of operations he says gave him only temporary relief. He has since undergone traditional fusion surgery and has been able to return to work.
Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show, Ed McMahon sued a hospital, two doctors and an investment tycoon over an injury he says left him unable to work. Cedars Sinai Hospital is said to have discharged him without spotting that he had broken his neck in a fall. The presenter also included the owner of the home where he fell, Robert Day, in his suit claiming the staircase where he attended a dinner party was unsafe because it was poorly lit and didn’t have any handrails.
Best known for playing Jack Tripper in Three’s Company, John Ritter died after suffering an aortic dissection, a tear in the largest blood vessel in the body. Medics treated his condition as if he were having a heart attack. His family received more than $14m in settlements. Ritter’s second wife Amy Yasbeck said doctors missed signs of her husband’s condition until it was too late to save him, while lawyers for the defence said Ritter’s time was simply up.
He’s one of the most recognisable doctors on television, but that didn’t stop someone who took advice from one of his shows launching a suit against him. Dr Oz became famous after appearances on Oprah Winfrey and now has his own eponymously titled show. Viewer Frank Dietl is suing after suffering third degree burns to his feet, resulting in him being confined to bed for weeks. Dr Oz had encouraged viewers to heat up rice in socks in the microwave before slipping them on to help them sleep.
Saturday Night Live star Dana Carvey was awarded $8m after filing a suit against his cardiovascular surgeon who operated on the wrong artery. Carvey had undergone a double bypass in a bid to prevent a heart attack, but his surgeon worked on a healthy section of artery rather than the damaged part. Ultimately, Carvey went on to have successful surgery, but said he went through a terrifying time thinking about what might have been. “I could have died,” he says. “Immediately, all I thought about was my two children.”
Popstrell Kylie Minogue has bounced back to good health, gracing our screens in the last series of The Voice in the UK, but the diminutive star has revealed doctors originally misdiagnosed her breast cancer. Minogue was originally given the all-clear before starting on her gruelling Showgirl tour. But that diagnosis was reversed when she was half way through her run of 57 concerts. “I was misdiagnosed initially,” she said. “So my message is… because someone is in a white coat and using big medical instruments doesn’t necessarily mean they are right. If you have any doubt, go back again.”
Singing powerhouse LeeAnn Rimes is suing her dentist, saying he has damaged her career because of badly carried out work on her mouth. The country star had dental work including veneers and crowns, which she says left her bleeding and in pain she likened to getting “hit in the right side of my face with a baseball bat”.
They’re all cases which just go to show all the fame in the world can’t compare to one of the most important things in life, your health.