New Details Emerge From Last Days of Joan Rivers

As the comedienne's friends and family mourn her loss, Joan Rivers leaves behind a thriving business.
8:34 | 09/06/14

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Transcript for New Details Emerge From Last Days of Joan Rivers
Tonight, new details emerging about Joan rivers during her last days. And even final minutes. Now, as her daughter, Melissa, prepares for the funeral and loved ones remember the comedic legend, some are now questioning exactly what happened during what was supposed to be a routine procedure. Here's ABC's David Wright. Reporter: The procedure that ended Joan rivers' life at this outpatient clinic, was not another round of plastic surgery. Nor was it a treatment for anything life-threatening. According to family friends, it was routine stuff. A diagnostic procedure to treat her raspy voice. This wasn't to fix anything. It was to get in there and see why her voice has gotten raspy. Reporter: Among those last to see her alive was Deborah Norville, a close friend for 20 years. Shouldn't have happened. Reporter: Rivers was under general anesthesia when she went into cardiac rest. The staff called 911 by 9:41 A.M. They rushed her Mt. Sinai medical center, arriving at 10:08. She was on life support. By the time I got up to the hospital, she was in this medically-induced coma, which is the standard medical protocol for someone who has gone through a period during which the brain may have been deprived of oxygen. Reporter: The TV anchor, Norville, among a small group of family and friends, holding rivers' hand in the intensive care unit. And cracking jokes. She wouldn't want to be -- that would be horrible. She would kick you out. And I had thought about being -- if she would punch me. Reporter: This was not your typical sendoff. Typical didn't fit Joan rivers. Joan did it her way. Joan has this -- had this -- it's hard to talk in the past tense about her, I'll be honest with you. This was not an 81-year-old woman who was on the verge of dementia or something. This was an 81-year-old woman who was running circles around people a third of her age. These two on the red carpet, who is back at the trailer park making the nest? Reporter: 81 still going strong as a performer. It's ugly. Reporter: Skewering celebrities on "Fashion police" just two weeks ago. I hate it. Something to wash the Off my car. There was every reason to hope this would be a different outcome because Joan was so vibrant. Because Joan's mind is so sharp. Every day around the united States, thousands of people who are over age 80 are getting anesthesia safely. And so, the fact that she died having anesthesia is an unusual event for someone of that age. Reporter: The New York state health department is investigating, as a matter of course. If someone dies in a setting where you don't expect there to be a death, a simple outpatient procedure, it's not at all unusual to conduct an investigation. You want to see, was it a procedure that they should have been doing at that clinic? And was it done based on the current standard of care? I'm personally really grateful to the health department of New York for launching an investigation and asking these questions, so there will be answers. Reporter: Today, the yorkville clinic reseriesed a statement, saying they have an exceptional safety record, that far exceeds the national average. This clinic may have done everything, single thing correctly. And still, a rare event could happen that could lead to death. Reporter: Rivers' only child, her daughter, Melissa, was by her side in the icu. And today, was making funeral arrangements. What's the outpouring been like? Humbling. Reporter: The two were very close. And worked side-by-side for years. In the last week, when Joan went into the hospital, I believe that one of the reasons we have become so fascinated by the story and so invested in Joan's health is because of Melissa. We know so much about the relationship. We know about Melissa. We're concerned about Melissa. It's very easy for people in the public to put yourself in Melissa's place. Reporter: Joan's career spanned five decades. The details of her life on display in her comedy. I'm sit tong stool that's covered in barf. Reporter: And in the documentary, "Joan rivers: A piece of work." I was never a natural beauty. No man has ever, ever told me I'm beautiful. Reporter: She was famous for her work ethic. Still doing the standup circuit, late into her 70s. So, you all saw the golden globes, yes? Oh, please. How boring can you get? Reporter: And it paid off. She lived lavishly in this antiques-filled apartment just off New York's fifth avenue. The apartment, worth close to $30 million. I live very, very, very well. I enjoy my creature comforts. And I know I have to work for it. Reporter: But her career had plenty of ups and downs. At one point, she was close to financial ruin. After those years, I was fired from fox. Fired from fox. My husband committed suicide. My husband invested all our money. And it was all lost. And I couldn't -- I couldn't get a rest. It was a terrible year. A terrible year. And the winner is -- Reporter: She clawed her way back to the top with an emmy-winning daytime talk show. Two years ago, I couldn't get a job in this business. Reporter: And by winning "Celebrity apprentice." Joan, congratulations. Reporter: She became the QVC queen, selling 1.2 million items. It's our number one beauty product. Reporter: All with her trademark brand of mockery. This is as subtle as a tobasco enema. Reporter: Tonight, her C co-host Giuliana rancic, remembered her wit. She loved the jokes. They were great jokes that people were going to laugh at. She didn't phone it in. She cared so much about her craft. It was beautiful to see. Reporter: She was a powerful brand. As the documentary film shows, she was generous with her staff. Most people that work with me, their children, I send the children to private schools. Reporter: Family friend, Ricky stern, correct directed "A piece of work." There's a moment in the film where she's writing checks. Stacks of checks that go to pay for people's education. Things that no one ever really talked about. So, she had to be business smart. She was as successful as a businesswoman because she was really smart. And because I think she wanted to work so much that she looked for opportunity. Money was important to her. She wanted to provide for her family. She wanted to live well. Reporter: The private memorial service will be held Sunday at Manhattan's temple Emanuel. The house, sure to be packed. Outside her apartment, wreaths of flowers from fans. Her friends say she would have loved this kind of attention. Yesterday, everybody came home to the apartment. And I was speaking to one of the people in the group. And I said, how was it? Was there a ton of paparazzi. She said, it was awful. I said, you know, it's a testament to how big Joan was. And she said, yeah. You know, the awful thing is, the one person who would think this is fabulous isn't here to enjoy it. Reporter: Altogether, the sort of ending that rivers herself could have easily found some humor in. A snarky joke, perhaps at her own expense. Oh, it's the next-to-last show. Who gives a ? I never made a In this place. It was part of her act, you know? If you ever saw her show, when she would get into the part when she talked about being 81 and blah, blah, blah. She joked about the night before she died. Reporter: Her family and friends like to think that somewhere, she must be having the last laugh. I'm David Wright, for "Nightline," in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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