Thursday, 7 February 2008

Heath Ledger's death accidental

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Heath Ledger's death an accident
From correspondents in New York
February 07, 2008 02:43am

Heath Ledger's abuse of a powerful mix of prescription drugs led to a fatal "accidental overdose", the official investigation into his death has concluded.

Tests on the 28-year-old Australian actor's blood detected six different drugs, including narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety pills and sleep medication.

The New York Medical Examiner ruled out suicide.

"We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications," said Ellen Borakove, director of public affairs at the New York Chief Medical Examiner's Office.

The drugs the Oscar nominee consumed before his body was found in the bedroom of his Manhattan apartment on January 22 included the painkiller OxyContin, the anti-anxiety drugs Valium and Xanax and the sleeping pills Restoril and Unisom.

"Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine," Ms Borakove said.

Ledger's US-based publicist, Mara Buxbaum, immediately released a statement from Ledger's father, Kim, requesting the media to stop speculating about what killed his son.

"Today's results put an end to speculation, but our son's beautiful spirit and enduring memory will forever remain in our hearts," Kim Ledger wrote.

"While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy.

"Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."

Ledger, the star of 2006 best picture Oscar nominee Brokeback Mountain and this year's Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, went public with his trouble with sleeping in an interview with the New York Times late last year.

He complained he could only sleep two hours a night and his "body was exhausted".

Ledger told the newspaper two Ambien sleeping pills would give him just one hour of sleep.

Ms Borakove decline to say how many pills Ledger had taken to cause his death, or the concentrations of each drug found in his blood.

Ledger's father's reference to "low dosage", however, and the ruling Ledger died from an accidental overdose rather than suicide indicates large quantities of any one drug were not found in his bloodstream.

"It was the cumulative effects of these medications together," Ms Borakove said.

Today's release of Ledger's official cause of death in the US comes as the actor's family, two-year-old daughter Matilda and former fiancee, Michelle Williams prepared for his funeral in Perth.

The funeral, expected within days, will be private.

Ledger's family and Williams have made repeated pleas for privacy and for the media to let them grieve.

In today's statement from Kim Ledger, he again asked for privacy and also opened up about the pain his family was suffering.

"We remain humble as parents and a family, among millions of people worldwide who may have suffered the tragic loss of a child," Kim Ledger wrote.

"Few can understand the hollow, wrenching, and enduring agony parents silently suffer when a child predeceases them."

Kim Ledger also thanked the support his family had received the past fortnight.

"We treasure our beautiful granddaughter Matilda (to our dear Michelle) as well as an unbelievably wonderful network of close friends, forever, around the world," he wrote.

"Families rarely experience the uplifting, warm and massive outpouring of grief and support as have we, from every corner of the planet.

"This has deeply and profoundly touched our hearts and lives.

"We are eternally grateful."

"This was not a deliberate attempt to kill himself. This was an accident," said Lawrence Kobilinsky, head of forensic science at John Jay College in New York. He had no role in the investigation. "He just took too many drugs having similar effects on the central nervous system."
Experts said the combination of sedatives and the other medicines likely combined to suppress his brain function and his breathing. They said that Ledger probably had been prescribed the medicine by a number of different doctors, because several of them were from the same class of drugs and used to treat similar symptoms.
"It doesn't make sense" that one doctor would prescribe all those, said Dr. William Lee, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Texas-Southwestern in Dallas. "It's more likely that he got them from different prescribers."
Jane Prosser, a medical toxicologist from New York University School of Medicine, said patients can often end up with similar medications prescribed by different doctors, who are unaware of what they're already taking.
Three of the six prescription drugs found in Ledger's apartment had been filled in Europe, where the actor was recently filming, police said.
"If you see one doctor for one thing and you see another doctor for another thing, neither the physician nor the patient may realize they're getting two similar medications," Prosser said.
"Patients should be aware that this happens on a regular basis and it doesn't just happen to celebrities."

Well I'm glad they have some 'answers' and he can be laid to rest... that ought to shut up all those people who thought it was suicide! Let that be a warning to you kids. Taking too many drugs simultaneously can be lethal :(

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