How Did Elvis Presley Die? Here’s the Truth About His Cause of Death
Despite the passage of more than 45 years after his passing, speculations concerning the dying hours of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll persist. Even after the release of his biography in 2022, many continue to wonder: how did Elvis die?
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When he passed away at the age of 42, Elvis was one of the most well-known artists in the world. The news of his death sent shockwaves throughout the country, prompting President Jimmy Carter to lament that the United States had really lost “a part of itself” that day. Carter informed the people of the United States, “More than 20 years ago, he burst upon the scene with an impact that was unprecedented and will probably never be equaled. His music and his personality, fusing the styles of white country and black rhythm and blues, permanently changed the face of American popular culture.”
And yet, even as the world mourned Elvis’ death, many questions remained. After all these years, the most pressing inquiry is still unanswered: what caused Elvis’s untimely demise?
Elvis Presley’s Cause of Death
On August 16th, 1977, Elvis Aron Presley passed away at his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee. His then-fiancee, Ginger Alden, found him unconscious in the master bathroom of their home. After fruitless attempts to revive Elvis, the artist was evacuated by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m.
On the morning of August 16, 1977, Elvis told his then-girlfriend Ginger Alden that he was going to the restroom to read. The diet and medicines caused long spells of constipation for the “Jailhouse Rock” star, so he would take a copy of Frank Adams’ The Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus with him when he went to the restroom.
Hours passed. Although Ginger had continued her day, as usual, she eventually realized that Elvis was not to be seen in the vicinity of their Graceland home. Her fiance, however, was about to embark on the American leg of his current tour and so was not present. A little after 2 o’clock in the afternoon, she went in search of the singer, only to find that the door to their master bedroom was ajar. Looking in, she saw Elvis slouched over the bathroom sink. “I stood frozen, taking in the scene,” she recalled in her memoir published in 2015. According to onlookers, “Elvis appeared as if his entire body had fully frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that motionless pose, exactly in front of it.”
Elvis’s face had become “blotchy, with purple discoloration” by the time Ginger found him, and his eyes were “staring straight ahead and blood red.” At 2:33 p.m., after being dispatched promptly, an ambulance arrived at the location. Elvis was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital‘s emergency room minutes later, where physicians tried in vain to revive him. Elvis was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 PM, and the world’s media was told within the hour.
— Variety (@Variety) August 16, 2017
According to Presley’s toxicology report, which arrived three weeks following his death in August 1977, the musician had very high quantities of Codeine, Dilaudid, Percodan, and Demerol found in his blood, plus another 10 drugs in his system. Elvis was a longstanding opiate user, having also taken sleeping pills, antihistamines, barbiturates, and, eventually, laxatives to alleviate acute constipation induced by his prescription-grade opiates. Elvis probably died of cardiac collapse brought on by a particularly arduous effort to defecate in his final minutes. In spite of this, it appears that medical examiner Francisco intentionally omitted these extra data in an effort to appease the Presley family, who were frantic to try to keep the rock star’s drug use a secret and maintain his public image following his death.
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