Today’s tears belong to music monarch Aretha Franklin, the Queen the Soul, who passed away Thursday at age 76 the pancreatic cancer.

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But on this particular day 41 year ago, countless music lover wept to the news that Elvis Presley, the King of rock ‘n’ Roll, was dead. He was only 42 year old and also a bloated, fading version of the once-beautiful man whose rhythmic hip-swaying earned the the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.” His girlfriend, Ginger Alden, found him unconscious, lying face down in the master suite toilet on the second floor of his Memphis mansion, Graceland.

Elvis to be taken by ambulance come the Baptist Memorial Hospital, where the medical staff was known to be an ext discrete than the far-closer Methodist south Hospital. Once there, medical professionals struggled come revive him without success and also Presley to be pronounced dead at 3:30 pm.

His medication chest to be filled with amber-colored, white-topped vials the medications, in doses no responsible medical professional would have actually prescribed.

Later that afternoon, a team the pathologists, Drs. Eric Muirhead, Jerry Francisco, and Noel Florredo, performed a two-hour post-mortem examination. At 8:00 pm, Dr. Francisco, who only witnessed the autopsy, acted without the consent or commitment of the other two pathologists in announcing come the push that “preliminary autopsy findings” suggested that Elvis’s fatality was due to a “cardiac arrhythmia” and that drugs were no involved.

This explain was ultimately demonstrated not to it is in the case. Indeed, the various other two pathologists later admitted that Francisco was covering up the real cause of death at the inquiry of Elvis’s mortified household who were concerned around the singer’s reputation. ~ all, exactly how would it look if the absent star who President Richard Nixon forgive a distinct badge indigenous the bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous medicine had passed away of a medicine overdose?

When the toxicology report came ago several main later, however, Elvis’ blood was discovered to contain really high levels of the opiates Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol, and codeine — as well as Quaaludes. The other two pathologists Muirhead and Florredo eventually revealed they also had discovered evidence the severe and chronic constipation, diabetes, and also glaucoma throughout their examination.

Elvis actually died a death that is quite common, albeit one embarrassing one. Elvis was sitting ~ above the toilet, straining really hard to have actually a bowel motion — a exercise that placed a great amount of pressure on his heart and aorta. Thus, he likely passed away of a enormous heart attack and keeled over onto the floor. But Elvis was not enduring from garden-variety constipation at the time of his death. Indeed, his medicine chest to be filled through amber-colored, white-topped vials the medications, in sheep no responsible physician would have prescribed.

Presley to be a long-time abuser that opiates, i m sorry not only kill ache but also cause savage constipation. He abused antihistamines, tranquilizers such together Valium, barbiturates, Quaaludes, resting pills, hormones — and also laxatives, for the constipation.


Mourners continued to be all night exterior Graceland, whereby 42-year-old Elvis Presley died. A guy holds newspaper announcing his death. Picture by Fred Ross/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Elvis’ personal physician, George Nichopoulos, or “Dr. Nick,” to be at Elvis’ beck and also call for virtually a decade. He started treating “the King” for “saddle pain” in 1967 and also all too shortly Elvis turned into an opiate addict. Dr. Nick admitted in ~ a hearing prior to the Tennessee board of wellness that he had prescribed thousands of doses of assorted addictive pills because that Elvis but likewise claimed he often slipped him street pills, or placebos, to try to control his addictions. Dr. Nick testified he offered into every one of Elvis’s prescription requests due to the fact that he want to save Presley from seeking out these medicine “on the street.”

Dr. Nick testified he provided into all of Elvis’s prescription requests because he want to keep Presley from seeking the end these medicine “on the street.”

The jury believed Dr. Nick to be “acting in the ideal interests that the patient” (an exceptionally improbable conclusion, it seems to this doctor) and was acquitted. In 1980, the not-so-good medical professional was indicted again for overprescribing come Presley as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, however was acquitted again. Nichopoulos, however, continued to over-prescribe to numerous other patients and also in 1995, the Tennessee plank of Medical examiners finally and permanently rely his medical license.

Subsequent armchair diagnosticians (and a couple of geneticists who declared to have actually a lock that Elvis’s hair and performed a DNA analysis of it) have said Elvis had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the love muscle in which there is thickening the the heart’s walls, weakening and enlargement that the muscle itself, and, at some point heart fail or sudden cardiac death. Few of the symptoms of this trouble include fatigue, fainting spells and also high blood pressure. Litter in the obesity Elvis endured from near the end of his life, what shows up to be form II diabetes, one enlarged heart, and a secure diet that unhealthy, fatty and also fried foods, in addition to his well known prescription pill consumption, and also you have the perfect prescription because that disaster.

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Like so countless rock stars, including Michael Jackson and also Prince, Elvis employed an all-too-willing physician to feeding his addiction and also hasten his death. In the end, he died a lonely guy whose ornate home ended up being the embodiment of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Left: Elvis Presley performs during his 2nd appearance top top "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1956. Picture by CBS photo Archive/Getty photos


Dr. Howard Markel write a monthly shaft for the NewsHour, highlighting momentous historical occasions that continue to shape contemporary medicine. He is the director of the center for the background of Medicine and the George E. Wantz identified Professor of the background of medication at the university of Michigan and also the writer of “The secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick and also the discovery of DNA’s double Helix” (W.W. Norton, September ’21).