Joan’s death was a moment where the entire entertainment industry stood still. Back in 2014, the New York Medical Examiner said that Joan died from therapeutic complications that were part of a routine medical procedure. According to the examiner, “anoxic encephalopathy due to hypoxic arrest” was the cause of death. Essentially, she endured brain damage from a lack of oxygen.
The star had been undergoing a procedure at a clinic to treat voice changes and acid reflux when things went wrong.
A spasm in Joan’s vocal cord, called laryngospasm, made it difficult to breathe. This eventually led to cardiac arrest, the examiner explained, which occurred “during laryngoscopy and upper gastrointestinal endoscopy with propofol sedation for evaluation of voice changes and gastroesophageal reflux disease.”
She was then rushed to a nearby hospital, where she remained on life support before she passed away a week later.
Initially, questions were raised when Joan died due to this circumstance, as it is said to be largely avoidable with modern medical means and, even in worst-case scenarios, can be mitigated with what is referred to as a “combat tracheotomy,” where a puncture is made in the thyroid cartilage to make an emergency airway to breathe out of. Questions about the way the procedure was handled and more compounded into a malpractice lawsuit against the office that performed it.
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