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Did Joan Rivers Die from VIP Syndrome?

Joan Rivers

It turns out that a famous person is more likely to get bad medical treatment than the rest of us. That’s the VIP treatment – and it can kill you.

The NY Times cites Dr. Barron H. Lerner, an internist at NYU Langone Medical Center, who says that when he was a young doctor-in-training at another hospital and famous patients arrived, doctors were warned in advance of the dangers of becoming star-struck, and at the same time they were given special instructions “about what to do and what not to do, given that they were famous.”

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Comedienne Joan Rivers died on Sept. 4, several days after going into cardiac arrest following a routine endoscopy. This is a procedure where a tiny camera is inserted through the throat, to look at the digestive tract.

The Times suggests that the doctor who performed the endoscopy allowed Rivers’ throat doctor to examine her there, even though he was not authorized to practice at the clinic, and it was a violation of state law.

So far, as the New York State Health Department is investigating the case, no one has been accused of contributing to Rivers’ death. In fact, there is yet to be a pronouncement from the city medical examiner on the cause of death.

Several doctors have been telling the Times that if Yorkville Endoscopy granted a privilege to Ms. Rivers that they would not have granted to a typical patient, her death could be seen as resulting from VIP Syndrome.

It was psychiatrist Dr. Walter Weintraub who wrote in a 1964 article in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: “the treatment of an influential man can be extremely hazardous for both patient and doctor.”

For doctors, he suggested, “The VIP, cursed with the touch of Midas, arouses only resentment and fear.”

While hospital administrators are delighted with the celebrity in their midst, whom they’re eager to hit with donation requests in the future, doctors resent their VIP patients, who are as demanding and manipulative, and it can diminish the quality of their care.

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