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The rumor is that Melissa Rivers, Joan Rivers’ adult daughter, is considering a medical malpractice lawsuit after her mother died during what sounds like a routine endoscopic procedure. After all, the procedure was minor enough that it was reportedly done outside a hospital setting and in an ambulatory surgical environment of some kind. While reports are that she was cleared by her cardiologist for the procedure, it is certainly possible that some type of medical negligence occurred. To know for sure, Melissa would need to hire attorneys, have them obtain her mother’s medical, surgical and anesthesia records, and have them analyzed by physicians and nurses to search for possible medical or nursing errors or mistakes.
But hold on. It bears mentioning that medical malpractice laws vary, state by state. Do you know what Melissa Rivers’ rights would be in Florida? Would you believe that she would likely have no case for her own mental pain and suffering as a result of losing her mother to medical negligence? If Joan was killed in an automobile accident in Florida, Melissa could recover under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act, but if she was killed as a result of medical malpractice in Florida, Melissa would have no claim for the loss of her mother’s companionship and guidance, mental anguish and emotional suffering. Why? Special interests like medical malpractice insurers, big hospital chains, and doctors groups pushed for this special interest legislation in 1990, almost 25 years ago: Florida Statutes Section 768.21(8) provides “The damages specified in subsection (3) shall not be recoverable by adult children and the damages specified in subsection (4) shall not be recoverable by parents of an adult child with respect to claims for medical negligence.” That’s right. Because Melissa is an adult, she can’t sue doctors or hospitals for negligently causing the death of her own mother.
Shocking isn’t it? We bet Melissa would be stunned to know she has no rights against those responsible for the untimely death of her mother if she were in Florida. If there was medical negligence involved in the death of Joan Rivers, we hope the Legislature of the State of New York treats its senior citizens with more fairness.