It’s incredibly sad and kind of unnerving when artists foreshadow their own death in song lyrics. For example, Prince was found dead in an elevator. In Let’s Go Crazy, he wrote, “And if the elevator tries to bring you down//Go crazy.” The spooky thing is that to him, the word “elevator” apparently meant “the devil.” In the song Lucky Man, Keith Emerson, who killed himself by gunshot in March, sang, “A bullet had found him; His blood ran as he cried; No money could save him; So he laid down and he died.”
As far as we can tell, however, no artist has ever foreshadowed death by medical malpractice. Probably like most people, the rich and famous think it can never happen to them. But sometimes, even the most expensive health care providers or hospitals can be grossly negligent and if that happens (to paraphrase Keith Emerson), no money can save them - even a celebrity patient.
In 2014, Joan Rivers went in for a routine endoscopy. She never woke up. Her family sued for wrongful death. Last week, the negligent providers accepted responsibility for her avoidable death and settled. Her daughter Melissa “said she hoped no one had to go through what her family had endured and vowed to ‘work towards ensuring higher safety standards in outpatient surgical clinics,’” which, as we have written before, is much needed.
But Joan Rivers sadly joins a list of other celebrities killed or severely injured due to medical negligence. Of course, there’s Michael Jackson, whose physician basically killed him. But also:
In March 2006, the wife and four children of actor John Ritter, who died in 2003 at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, reached a settlement with the hospital for his death from aortic dissection (although a jury eventually cleared the doctors of negligence).
Dick Schaap, legendary sports writer and broadcaster, went in for a routine hip replacement surgery at New York’s Lenox Hill hospital in 2001. Schaap contracted an infection at the hospital and died three months later. A jury found the doctors negligent and awarded the family $1.9.
- Dana Carvey sued his heart surgeon for operating on the wrong artery when he underwent a double bypass in 1998. The doctor settled for an undisclosed amount, which Carvey donated to charity. Carvey said, “This lawsuit, from the beginning, was about accountability and doing everything I could to make sure that it wouldn't happen to someone else.”
- Julie Andrews underwent surgery in 1997 to remove non-cancerous nodules in her throat. The surgery damaged her vocal cords and ended her singing career. The doctor settled the case in 2000.
- Andy Warhol, “who was afraid of hospitals and had a premonition he would die in one,” in fact did so in 1987 after undergoing “surgery to have gallstones removed and a hernia repaired.” He “died two days later” and his estate sued claiming Warhol died due to negligent care. The hospital settled in 1991.
Money and fame may be nice. Just not always enough.