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Medical Director At Yorkville Endoscopy, Where Joan Rivers Went Into Cardiac Arrest, Out As Head Of Clinic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There's been a change at the top at the clinic where comedian Joan Rivers went into cardiac arrest last month.

Dr. Lawrence Cohen "is not currently performing procedures at Yorkville Endoscopy; nor is he currently serving as medical director," a spokesman for the clinic said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Rivers went into cardiac arrest while undergoing what was supposed to be a routine diagnostic procedure at Yorkville Endoscopy. The clinic is now under investigation by the state's health department.

As CBS 2's Jessica Schneider reported, Cohen was still listed on the Yorkville Endoscopy website as of Friday.

According to his biography on the clinic website, Cohen both conducts research on and lectures about medical issues related to endoscopy. He has also been included in the lists Best Doctors in America and Top Doctors in New York, according to the online bio.

Cohen is a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Yorkville Endoscopy
(Credit: CBS 2)

"At these surgical outpatient centers, generally surgical outpatient procedures carry a very low risk.  What's important for people to know is that when you have a cardiac arrest, your risk of surviving that is very low," Cardiologist Dr. Tara Narula said.

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A doctor who arrived with Joan Rivers' entourage to her routine throat procedure performed an unplanned biopsy on the comedian just before she went into cardiac arrest, a medical source told the New York Daily News.

Rivers' own doctor performed the biopsy Aug. 28 after another doctor at Yorkville Endoscopy noticed "something" on Rivers' vocal cords, the source, who is said to have been briefed on the case, told the newspaper.

The report says the comedian's vocal cords seized, a condition called laryngospasm, and cut off her air supply. The 81-year-old TV star was then rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she died a week later.

Medical experts told the Daily News the biopsy is not supposed to be performed outside a hospital.

Patients who spoke to CBS 2 Friday afternoon said no one at the clinic told them the head doctor at the practice was no longer there. But they said they were not concerned.

"You know, it happens, you know like, when things happen, you know, there's usually someone that's kind of like high who has to take the hit for it," said Rousana Serrano. "You know, it happens here, it happens in politics, it happens all over."

State investigators were at the clinic last week, going through the center's medical records and interviewing staff and doctors.

No findings had been listed by the state agency as of Friday, but the department inspected the clinic before it opened in 2013. There have been no prior complaints or violations against the facility.

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