Friday, 05 Sep 2014 10:15 AM
By Charlotte Libov
Joan Rivers suffered no pain at the end, likely passing away peacefully and unaware of her grave medical condition, a top doctor says.
The 81-year-old comic legend died Thursday after going into cardiac arrest during an outpatient procedure on her throat for which she was sedated.
“Anyone who has ever had general anesthesia knows that you wait for it to get started and the next thing you realize, it’s over,” Marc Leavey, M.D., told Newsmax Health.
“She likely felt nothing. Maybe she had a period of a dream state early on, but all of us who have had surgery know that you lose that block of time and when you awaken, you don’t remember anything about it,” said Dr. Leavey, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
After going into cardiac arrest at an outpatient clinic, Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan where she was put into a medically induced coma. She was unconscious on life support for more than week before she died. Likewise, the performer in all probability did not suffer during this time, Dr. Leavey said.
During a medically induced coma, the drug propofol or some other medication is used to maintain an anesthetic effect. The amount is carefully balanced so that even as a patient is unconscious their organs continue to function and they can heal, with the hope they will be able to be gradually returned to consciousness, Dr. Leavey said. Patients who have awakened from a medically induced coma generally say they felt nothing.
Rivers’ death was announced shortly after she was taken from Mount Sinai’s intensive care unit and moved to a private room. That announcement was most likely an indication that Rivers’ family had agreed to take the star off life support. A private room is considered a more comfortable place than an ICU for a family to gather as a loved one passes away, said Sister Kathleen Dauses, chaplain at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium, Md.
“That decision probably came after the doctors had spent time explaining to Melissa Rivers that her mother had suffered so much brain damage that she would never recover and given her time to come to grips with it,” Sister Dauses told Newsmax Health.
In cases such as Joan Rivers’, it is often comforting for the family to know that a loved one died without pain or physical distress, said Sister Dauses.
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