Prince died from Fentanyl toxicity, the medical examiner said Thursday. It was ruled an accident.
The 57-year-old musician was pronounced dead the morning of April 21, one day before he was scheduled to meet with a California doctor in an attempt to kick an opioid addiction.
Two of his staff members — longtime friend Kirk Johnson and personal assistant Meron Bekure — found his lifeless body in a Paisley Park elevator about 9:40 a.m.
While the official autopsy and toxicology results have yet to be publicly reported by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, sources have told the Star Tribune that the investigation has focused on Prince’s use of painkillers and how he obtained them.
The Associated Press in Chicago, citing an unidentified law enforcement official, also reported Thursday that Prince died from an opioid overdose.
The day before his death, Prince was treated by a local doctor for withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction. The physician, Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg, a family practitioner, treated Prince for fatigue, anemia and concerns about opiate withdrawal.
Schulenberg, however, did not prescribe opioids to Prince, a source has said.
Prince died less than a week after his private plane made an emergency, middle-of-the-night landing in Moline, Ill. so he could be treated for a suspected opioid overdose following a pair of concert performances in Atlanta, sources told the Star Tribune.
Emergency responders arrived at the Chanhassen complex the morning of April 21 within five minutes of receiving a 911 call, but it was already too late. A responding paramedic told staff members, law enforcement officers and others at the scene that Prince appeared to have been dead for at least six hours by the time his body was found.
The painkiller Percocet was present in Prince’s body when he was found dead, a source familiar with the investigation told the Star Tribune last month.
Sources also have told the newspaper that Prince’s inner circle became so concerned about his health that they reached out to Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a well-known environmental and labor activist in the San Francisco Bay Area who has been credited with helping Prince recover the rights to his early catalog of songs from Warner Bros. She has declined to comment, citing Prince’s concern for his privacy.
The night of April 20, less than 12 hours before Prince’s body was found, Ellis-Lamkins called Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a pain and addiction specialist in Mill Valley, Calif., seeking his help to get the musician off prescription painkillers, sources said.
Kornfeld could not clear his schedule to immediately travel to Minnesota, so he instead dispatched his son, Andrew Kornfeld, a pre-med student who worked with his father, to meet with Prince and a second Minnesota doctor who is certified to prescribe an opioid addiction treatment medication that Dr. Kornfeld uses.
That Minnesota doctor, who hasn’t been publicly identified, had cleared his calendar for the morning of April 21 so that Prince could go to his office for an independent evaluation, the source said.
Prince, however, died before the meeting could take place.
Autopsies typically conclude within three to six weeks, but experts said there are many reasons why Prince’s death might be taking longer than usual to officially determine. Price died exactly six weeks ago.
Deaths associated with drugs slow the process, because they require toxicology tests to substantiate the presence of drugs, then Olympic-level verification to determine the exact type and amount of drugs, said Fred Apple, medical director of the clinical laboratory at HCMC, which did not conduct the toxicology testing for the Prince case. Investigators then need to discuss if the level of drugs were toxic enough to have played a role in the death, or were typical for someone taking medication.
“It’s not like you see on TV on NCIS,” Apple said, “where someone shoots something into an instrument and two minutes later, a result comes out.”
By David Chanen - The Star Tribune/June 2, 2016
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Fentanyl Toxicity Cause of Prince's Death, According to Medical Examiners