Free Consultation (800) 272-4080
Call Now (800) 272-4080

Medical Malpractice Happens to Celebrities – Part III

December 22, 2021

Medical malpractice happens when a physician or hospital causes an injury to a patient by a negligent act or omission. The negligence may be from mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management.

Medical errors can happen to anyone, including well-known entertainers. Let’s look at our last set of celebrities who had issues (and in some cases died) as a result of medical procedures and pursued litigation for medical malpractice.

Anna Nicole Smith. In February 2007, the reality TV star and model was found dead in her room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. A nurse friend performed CPR, and EMTs rushed her to Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital where doctors pronounced her dead. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, forensic pathologists, and law enforcement conducted a comprehensive investigation and found that Anna Nicole died as a result of “combined drug intoxication” that involved sleeping pills. But the toxicology reports indicated that there were no illegal drugs in her body at the time of her death. However, the coroner didn’t think her death was the result of natural causes, suicide, or homicide.

The coroner subsequently ruled that Anna Nicole’s death was an accidental acute combined drug toxicity with a combination of prescribed benzodiazepines including Valium (diazepam), Serax (oxazepam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Klonopin (diazepam). The toxicology report showed that she’d also taken a Kaimate antagonist and anticonvulsant medication which likely caused her to be sedated. Plus, the autopsy report showed that she’d also taken human growth hormone and cyanocobalamin (a form of vitamin B12) in the days before she died. There were a total of 11 drugs found in Nicole’s body at the time of her death, and eight of them, including the sleeping medication, weren’t prescribed to Anna Nicole. Instead, they belonged to Nicole’s personal lawyer, Howard Turner; Alex Katz; and Dr. Khristina Eroshevich, her friend and psychiatrist. Dr. Eroshevich had written each one of the eleven prescriptions. Eroshevich was fined and sentenced to a year of probation in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Chris Cornell. Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell’s family reached a confidential settlement with a physician over a malpractice claim that accused him of writing him prescriptions for “dangerous” and “mind-altering” medications that led to his death. Cornell was found dead by suicide in 2017. The alternative rocker was 52 and was survived by wife Vicky Cornell and two children. In 2018, the family sued Dr. Robert Koblin, an internist and cardiologist who practices in Beverly Hills, for medical malpractice for allegedly over-prescribing Cornell’s medicine without actually examining him. One of them, an anti-anxiety pill, was found in his system at the time of his death.

Cornell’s family alleged that the doctor and his office negligently and repeatedly prescribed dangerous, mind-alerting controlled substances to Cornell which impaired his cognition, clouded his judgment, and caused him to engage in dangerous impulsive behaviors that he was unable to control, costing him his life.

The lawsuit also stated: “In someone with a risk of substance abuse and/or addictive disorder like Mr. Cornell, Lorazepam was known to ‘increase the risk of suicide by severely impairing judgment and rational thinking and by lessening impulse control. Moreover, excessive ongoing, unmonitored use can lead to medical intoxication… and substantially enhance the risk of impulsive suicide. Despite this, Dr. Koblin failed to warn or counsel Mr. Cornell about the risk of suicidal ideation or any other known serious side effects of protracted Lorazepam use.”

Prince. The Minnesota rock star died of an accidental synthetic opioid overdose in April 2016 at his Paisley Park home outside of Minneapolis. The toxicology report found an exceedingly high amount of fentanyl in Prince’s system. A blood test confirmed that synthetic opioid was found in the stomach, liver, and blood which likely killed him. Prince had taken a number of medications including fentanyl to treat chronic pain, but the medication is considered to be 50 times more powerful than heroin. The level found in Prince’s bloodstream was deadly.

The Star Tribune reported that investigators were looking at how painkillers might have been involved in the hospital ER that occurred one week before Prince’s death. Another news report said that law enforcement investigated whether doctors were on the plane when the singer was found unconscious. Prince was given a shot of Narcan, a medication that offsets opioid overdoses. However, news reports at the time said that Prince was fighting the flu or suffering dehydration, which was the reason he needed to go to the emergency room.

Bernie Mac. Medical health complications involving pneumonia claimed the life of comedian Bernie Mac (McCullough) on August 9, 2008. Three years before his death, doctors diagnosed Bernie with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune tissue inflammation disease that in Mac’s case attacked his lungs. Doctors admitted Bernie to Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital in 2008 a week before he experienced a fatal cardiac arrest after receiving ineffective medical treatment. The 50-year-old comedian died of complications of pneumonia. His wife stated that she saw him shake with his eyes wide open in the day before he passed away.

Bernie’s widow filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against his dermatologist for not recognizing the obvious symptoms associated with the respiratory distress in the weeks before his death. His wife claimed that the dermatologists Bernie at the clinic for hours instead of transferring them to the hospital for admittance even after he showed signs of respiratory failure. The dermatologists advised Bernie to go to the hospital only after Mac had stated he got an injection for a cold that morning. The dermatologists called his other treating doctor and were informed that Bernie had been diagnosed with pneumonia that day. However, in 2010, Bernie’s wife withdrew her lawsuit so that legal issues could be fixed to resolve the case.

Marty Balin. The Jefferson Airplane’s co-founder and lead singer’s career was ended with a medical error. In March 2016, he was admitted to a NYC hospital ER with cardiac problems and had emergency open-heart surgery. Three months later, he left with only half a tongue, a paralyzed vocal cord, and an amputated thumb. Balin filed a lawsuit against the hospital and several doctors, claiming his career-ending injuries were the result of a botched tracheotomy performed while he was recovering from heart surgery and an inadequately-staffed ICU.


As you can see, medical mistakes and resulting injury can happen to anyone. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or death from medical malpractice, you may bring a lawsuit for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Michigan, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of a medical error.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!