While the world still doesn’t know exactly what caused Joan Rivers to stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest during what was said to be a routine medical procedure, it’s starting to seem likely that some of the blame for her death might eventually fall on Dr. Lawrence Cohen. Cohen is the (now former) medical director of Yorkville Endoscopy, the Manhattan clinic where Rivers went for treatment on August 28. On Friday afternoon, NBC New York reported that Cohen no longer working at Yorkville. According to NBC, it “wasn’t clear if [he] resigned or was fired.”
In fact, Cohen doesn’t appear to be working anywhere anymore. NBC’s email to his address at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where he had been serving as an associate clinical professor of medicine, bounced back, and the hospital wouldn’t comment on his status there. Finally, “A voice recording at New York Gastroenterology Associates on East 79th Street, where Cohen also worked, said he was no longer part of the team.”
Cohen, a gastroenterologist by training, has been identified by the New York Times as Rivers’s “personal physician.” Yorkville would not explain the role he played in the comedian’s final visit to the facility. However, a “source close to the situation” told ABC News that, “Cohen was asked to step down because he allowed a specialist unaffiliated with Yorkville Endoscopy to examine Rivers even though that doctor was not authorized to practice in the clinic.”
Friends have said that Rivers was at Yorkville for an endoscopy — a minor diagnostic procedure that involves putting a small camera down a patient’s throat — on her vocal cords. Earlier this week, a New York Daily News source claimed that the trouble started when a doctor who accompanied Rivers to the clinic performed “an unplanned biopsy on her vocal chords [sic],” though a Yorkville spokesperson disputed that report.
The New York Health Department’s investigation of Yorkville is ongoing, and the official “cause and manner” of her death on September 4 has, of course, yet to be determined.