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An in-depth investigative report raises troubling questions about the risks of using surgery centers in the United States.

According to a Kaiser Health News and USA Today Network investigation, surgery centers in more than a dozen states operate with little oversight. Patients and regulators have scant information about incidents that may have occurred in these facilities, including serious injuries and deaths during routine procedures. 

The article cites an example involving an Arkansas surgery center where patients underwent colonoscopies. Two patients died and another had a close call with death following the procedures, which doctors say are usually extremely safe.  

Alarmingly, the three incidents failed to trigger any official investigation in Arkansas, according to the article. Arkansas is one of 17 states with no mandate to report deaths after treatment at surgery centers. 

Surgery centers outnumber hospitals, yet these facilities operate under a hodgepodge of regulations across the country. A patient who checks into a surgery center may have no way of knowing the facility has a dodgy history when it comes to safety. 

Kaiser Health News (KHN) cited a well-known case involving the late comedian Joan Rivers. She suffered complications after a routine procedure at Yorkville Endoscopy, a New York City surgery center, and was transferred to a hospital. She died a week later, yet her name did not appear in Medicare’s public listing of patients rushed to a hospital.  


The family of Joan Rivers filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the clinic that treated her, according to the Washington Post. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services took away the facility’s accreditation, saying it “no longer meets the conditions for coverage for a supplier of Ambulatory Surgical Center services,” USA Today reported. 

The patient who had a near-fatal experience in Kanis Endoscopy, the Arkansas clinic, told Kaiser Health News she did not know that two people died three months before she went in for a colonoscopy. While undergoing treatment, she heard two men saying her blood pressure was dropping.  

“I said, ‘Lord, if it’s time for me to go, take me. But I’m not ready,’” the patient, Faye Watkins, told KHN. She later woke up in a hospital feeling pain in her chest from CPR. 

A big takeaway from the report is that surgical centers need better oversight. Records of outcomes from surgery are more limited in these clinics than they are at hospitals. Currently, there are about 5,600 surgery centers nationwide, according to KHN, which is slightly higher than the number of hospitals. Patients visit surgery centers for a range of routine procedures, from tonsillectomies to knee replacements. Yet some patients have lost their lives.  

According to the investigative report, more than 260 patients have died since 2013 after treatment for routine procedures in surgery centers across the country.   

In some cases, Medicare inspectors have ordered an “involuntary decertification” (meaning the government won’t pay for senior care at the facility). However, surgery centers that have been hit with such orders have sometimes continued to operate due to different state regulations. 

As experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Chicago, we find the lack of oversight and lack of information for patients extremely troubling. No one should expect to be seriously injured or die following a routine procedure at a surgery center. 

Lax oversight may be contributing to these senseless tragedies. If you or a loved one was injured or your loved one died after using a surgery center, you will need a knowledgeable attorney on your side. Contact The Deratany Firm today for a free consultation.

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