My guilty pleasure is loving celebrity gossip. I enjoy reading about how the rich and famous live and at times daydream about what it must be like to have such a glamorous life. This is probably why I was so enamored by a CNN article discussing VIP syndrome. VIP syndrome is when a medical professional gives an influential or famous person special treatment. Special treatment from a medical professional can range anywhere from granting appointments and treatment without making the “important” patient wait to bending rules and regulations to accommodate the “important” person. While VIP syndrome may seem glamorous, at times, it can be far from it. If a medical provider thinks someone is too important to take the time necessary to get the needed consent, it can result in catastrophe. But consent is important for any patient.
Joan Rivers is a good example of someone who apparently meet her untimely death due in part to VIP syndrome. In August of 2014, Joan Rivers went to Yorkville Endoscopy Center to undergo a minor throat procedure. From the start though, nothing seemed to go right. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that the clinic where Joan underwent her procedure committed several errors, including failing to record Joan’s weight prior to the administration of medication for sedation. (Medical providers at times fail to ask VIPs certain questions or perform certain tasks that they feel may inconvenience the “important” person, such as asking how much they weigh). According to the complaint that was filed by Melissa Rivers, Joan’s daughter, the doctors performed procedures beyond what Joan had consented to while she was sedated and failed to realize she was losing oxygen until it was too late. Additionally, Joan’s personal physician was not credentialed to perform surgery at the surgery center and even left the room when Joan’s vitals began to plummet to “avoid getting caught.” Melissa felt that the doctors Joan entrusted with her care acted negligently, ending the life of a cherished comedian. Last month, Melissa Rivers settled with the involved physicians for an undisclosed amount.
While Joan Rivers was the victim of VIP syndrome, some of the fatal mistakes made that day could happen to anyone. What really stuck with me and made me think, wow, that could be me, was the fact that the doctors performed a nonconsensual procedure that ultimately killed her.
Medical consent requires two things before a procedure is performed. First, express consent requires the patient to specifically consent to the medical treatment, usually in writing. Second, informed consent requires the patient to be informed of the risks and complications that may occur during the consented-to procedure. There is a third type of consent, implied consent, which is usually used for non-surgical forms of medical treatment. Implied consent can also arise with an emergency situation and an unconscious patient. In the case with Joan Rivers she did not give express consent to the second procedure and it was not performed for emergency reasons.
While Joan Rivers may have been a very important patient, you do not have to be a Hollywood star to receive the help you need after being injured at the hands of a medical professional. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, including any injury sustained from a nonconsensual procedure, seek the help of an attorney who you can trust.
By: Tatum Tipton