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

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But on today 41 years ago, countless music lovers wept to the news the Elvis Presley, the King of absent ‘n’ Roll, to be dead. He was just 42 year old and a bloated, fading version of the once-beautiful guy whose rhythmic hip-swaying earned him the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.” His girlfriend, Ginger Alden, uncovered him unconscious, lying face down in the master suite bathroom on the 2nd floor that his Memphis mansion, Graceland.

Elvis was taken by ambulance come the Baptist Memorial Hospital, whereby the medical staff was well-known to be much more discrete 보다 the far-closer Methodist south Hospital. Once there, physicians struggled to revive him there is no success and also Presley to be pronounced dead in ~ 3:30 pm.

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

Later the afternoon, a team of pathologists, Drs. Eric Muirhead, Jerry Francisco, and Noel Florredo, conducted a two-hour post-mortem examination. In ~ 8:00 pm, Dr. Francisco, who just witnessed the autopsy, acted there is no the consent or covenant of the various other two pathologists in announcing come the press that “preliminary autopsy findings” shown that Elvis’s fatality was as result of a “cardiac arrhythmia” and that drugs were not involved.

This explain was subsequently demonstrated not to it is in the case. Indeed, the other two pathologists later on admitted the Francisco was extending up the real cause of death at the request of Elvis’s mortified household who to be concerned around the singer’s reputation. After all, exactly how would that look if the absent star who President Richard Nixon forgive a special badge native the office of Narcotics and Dangerous drugs had passed away of a medicine overdose?

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

Elvis actually died a fatality that is fairly common, albeit an embarrassing one. Elvis was sitting top top the toilet, straining very hard to have a bowel movement — a exercise that put a good amount of pressure on his heart and aorta. Thus, that likely died of a substantial heart attack and also keeled over onto the floor. But Elvis to be not suffering from garden-variety constipation at the moment of his death. Indeed, his medicine chest was filled with amber-colored, white-topped vials of medications, in doses no responsible medical professional would have actually prescribed.

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


Mourners stayed all night outside Graceland, where 42-year-old Elvis Presley died. A guy holds newspaper announcing his death. Picture by Fred Ross/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Elvis’ an individual physician, George Nichopoulos, or “Dr. Nick,” to be at Elvis’ beck and also call for nearly a decade. He began treating “the King” for “saddle pain” in 1967 and all too shortly Elvis turned into an opiate addict. Dr. Nick admitted at a hearing before the Tennessee plank of health and wellness that he had prescribed countless doses of miscellaneous addictive pills because that Elvis but likewise claimed he regularly slipped him sugar pills, or placebos, to try to control his addictions. Dr. Nick testified he provided into all of Elvis’s prescription requests due to the fact that he wanted to keep Presley from seeking the end these drugs “on the street.”

Dr. Nick testified he gave into every one of Elvis’s prescription requests since he wanted to save Presley from seeking the end these medicine “on the street.”

The jury assumed Dr. Nick was “acting in the ideal interests of the patient” (an extremely improbable conclusion, it appears to this doctor) and also was acquitted. In 1980, the not-so-good physician was indicted again because that overprescribing come Presley and also Jerry Lee Lewis, but was acquitted again. Nichopoulos, however, continued to over-prescribe to numerous other patients and also in 1995, the Tennessee board of Medical inspectors finally and permanently exposed his medical license.

Subsequent armchair diagnosticians (and a couple of geneticists who declared to have a lock of Elvis’s hair and performed a DNA analysis of it) have said Elvis had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition of the love muscle in which there is thickening of the heart’s walls, weakening and also enlargement the the muscle itself, and, ultimately heart failure or sudden cardiac death. Some of the symptoms of this difficulty include fatigue, fainting spells and also high blood pressure. Throw in the excessive weight Elvis endured from near the finish of his life, what appears to be type II diabetes, one enlarged heart, and also a steady diet the unhealthy, fatty and also fried foods, together with his notorious prescription pill consumption, and also you have the perfect prescription for disaster.

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Like so many rock stars, including Michael Jackson and also Prince, Elvis to work an all-too-willing doctor to feed his addiction and also hasten his death. In the end, he passed away a lonely guy whose ornate home came to be the embodiment the “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Left: Elvis Presley performs throughout his 2nd appearance ~ above "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1956. Picture by CBS picture Archive/Getty photos


Dr. Howard Markel write a monthly obelisk for the NewsHour, highlighting momentous historical events that continue to shape modern-day medicine. The is the director of the center for the background of Medicine and also the George E. Wantz differentiated Professor of the history of medicine at the university of Michigan and the author of “The mystery of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick and the discovery of DNA’s twin Helix” (W.W. Norton, September ’21).