Things you never wanted to know about the death of Elvis

By Potter · May 12, 2010 · ·
  1. Potter
    Presley had a "six to nine foot" colon at the time of his death, his doctor says

    It has been widely reported that Elvis Presley died in 1977 from cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, possibly brought on by drug dependency, obesity and a weak heart. But the music legend's longtime friend and physician, Dr. George “Nick” Nichopoulos, has put pen to paper for the first time and revealed his belief that it was chronic constipation that actually killed the King of Rock and Roll.

    “After he died we weren’t sure (of the exact cause of death) so I continued to do some research and I had some doctors call me from different places and different med schools that were doing research on constipation and different problems you can get into with it. I just want to get the story straight – it all made sense with the new research that was done,” the now retired Memphis M.D told Pop Tarts. "Dr. Nick" was by Presley's side for the last twelve years of his life and tried to resuscitate him the day he died. He recently released the book “The King and Dr. Nick” about his time with The King, and his theory on the death that shocked America.

    “We didn’t realize until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad – we knew it was bad because it was hard for us to treat, but we didn’t realize what it had done," the doctor explains of Elvis' condition. "We just assumed that the constipation was secondary to the meds that he was taking for his arthritic pain and for his insomnia.”

    According to Dr. Nick, the autopsy revealed that Presley’s colon was 5 to 6 inches in diameter (whereas the normal width is 2 to 3 inches) and instead of being the standard 4 to 5 feet long, his colon was 8 to 9 feet in length.

    “The constipation upset him quite a bit because Elvis thought that he could handle almost anything, he thought he was really a man’s man and he wasn’t going to let something like this … he thought that this was a sign of weakness and he wasn’t going to be weak,” Nichopoulos said. “And it’s not the kind of thing you table talk. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s you didn’t’ talk about constipation much, you didn’t’ hear people complaining about it, or saying what they did or how much trouble they had with it.”

    In 1975, the primary treatment for this kind of problem involved removing part of the colon, known as a colostomy, and at the time Dr. Nick was in talks with a surgeon at the University of Memphis to perform the procedure. However Presley’s “ego” got in the way.

    “He would get embarrassed, he’d have accidents onstage. He’d have to change clothes and come back because of the way we were trying to treat his constipation,” Nichopoulos said. “So if they had done the colostomy then, he’d probably still be here. But it wasn’t acceptable treatment at that time. Now the treatment is short.”

    Nichopoulos also believes that Presley’s prominent weight gain in the years prior to his death, was not a result of overeating or eating the wrong foods, as they initially assumed. The doctor reveals that Elvis' bloated appearance was due to his severe constipation.

    “It was really a physiological problem. During the last few years we were going back and comparing pictures, some of them were taken just two weeks a part but he looked like he’d gained 20 pounds when the only difference was that he had a good healthy bowel movement and then lost a lot of weight from that,” Dr. Nick explained. “Usually you pass it all in two or three days, but at the autopsy we found stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months because of the poor motility of the bowel.”

    So how would Presley feel about all the details of this “debilitating” disease being made public?

    “I still think it’d be embarrassing for him, but that may be because we couldn’t explain it at that time the way we can now. But bowel paralysis is hereditary and you can in fact pass it down to your children,” he continued. “His condition was either something he was born with like Hershberger’s disease, or some viruses cause the paralysis of the nerves in the colon. The nerves weren’t functioning enough in places, or weren’t functioning at all because his colon would not push food out, it would just accumulate.”

    And even through all the trials and tribulations of their personal and professional relationship, Nichopoulos will first and foremost remember the captivating yet compassionate person that was our beloved American icon, Elvis Presley.

    “He was well-written, a very kind person, a very giving person. He was just one of a kind. You couldn’t ask for a better friend,” Dr. Nick added. “The main thing that he enjoyed in life was doing his shows. He would change from one person to another as soon as he walked on the stage. He would just go through a metamorphosis – all of a sudden he flipped a switch and looked like a toy soldier dancing up there.”

    By Hollie McKay

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  1. Potter

    Death On The Throne: The Passing Of Elvis Presley

    On August 17th, 1977, newspaper headlines across the country, proclaimed the shocking news: The King is dead.

    Twenty-seven years ago today, Elvis passed away. Elvis Aaron Presley -- the poor, ambitious, rebellious young man from Tupelo, Mississippi, who gyrated

    Headlines like this shocked fans around the world.
    himself to the top of the fledgling rock and roll industry in the mid 50s; who helped define and refine its essence for two more decades; and who became increasingly eccentric, isolated and unable to handle his mega-star status -- Elvis Aaron Presley had died at 42 of cardiac arrhythmia, a severely irregular heartbeat or heart attack. His millions of fans wanted immediate answers, wondering how such a thing could possibly have happened to one so previously blessed with good fortune.

    At first, conflicting reports circulated throughout the media of how Elvis had met his end, and who had discovered him in his Graceland bathroom. Initial accounts had Joe Esposito, his road manager, discovering Elvis' body fully clothed in pajamas, face up on the floor of the bathroom, around 2:30 on the afternoon of August 16th. Elvis was rushed to the emergency room at Memphis Baptist Hospital, where Jay Francisco, the Shelby County medical examiner, pronounced him dead at 3:30. It was speculated that he might have been dead as early as 9:00 that morning. The only drugs detected in his system were those prescribed by his personal physician and friend, Dr. George Nichopoulos, for hypertension and for a colon blockage (an affliction that hospitalized the singer twice in 1975). A drug overdose of any kind was quickly ruled out.

    But a different set of details eventually emerged. To protect Elvis's young fiancé -- a novice actress named Ginger Alden, to whom he was to be married on Christmas Day later that year -- the sequence of events was altered. What actually happened was this: Elvis, who had been unable to sleep, had played racquetball most of the night and early into Tuesday morning (around 6:30). He then told Ginger, who had a separate bedroom and bath, that he was going into his bathroom "to read" for a while. The book he took in with him, interestingly enough, was The Face Of Jesus, by Frank Adams.

    It was Ginger who discovered him around 1:30 in the afternoon that day, after he did not respond to her queries at his bathroom door. Finding it unlocked, she pushed on it and encountered him laying on the floor, facedown in a pool

    Ginger Alden, Elvis' fiancé, the first to discover the King that fateful morning.
    of vomit, his pajama bottoms around his ankles. To spare the distraught woman's feelings and ease her emotional burden, the discovery story was somewhat sanitized in its initial release to the press, particularly regarding the part she had played in the traumatic event, his state of undress and the bodily function in which he had surely been engaged. Only later did it become common knowledge that Elvis had died while trying to defecate.

    In his 1999 biography Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis, author Peter Guralnick emphasizes that "it was certainly possible that (Elvis) had been taken while straining at stool"; and Shelby County medical examiner Dan Warlick also indicated that it appeared Elvis had been stricken while seated on the toilet before falling off, crawling several feet, throwing up and dying.

    Autopsy results later released to the general public did nothing to discourage this scenario. The singer's heart was enlarged with a significant amount of coronary atherosclerosis, there was extensive liver damage, and the large intestine was clogged with fecal matter, indicating a chronic and painful bowel condition. Elvis's former aide and bodyguard Delbert "Sonny" West would later complete the distressing and graphic picture of the King's physiological torment in a widely-circulated newspaper interview, revealing that his employer's drug habit was "so strong that he had to take pills to get up in the morning, to regulate his bowel movements, to sleep and to perform."

    "He took every possible pill you can think of," West continued, "including pain pills during the day. Demerol and morphine shots (with

    An actual photo of Elvis' bathroom Pretty swanky!
    syringes) for the downs. And a very strong pain medication intended for terminally-ill cancer patients for a pleasant high."

    Although these drugs were not in his system at the time of his death, the damage done to his cardiovascular system by dependence upon such substances -- along with a lifetime of extravagant and unhealthy nutritional habits (he was at least thirty pounds overweight when he died) and a previously documented intestinal blockage -- all point to the 'straining at stool' scenario (surely without success) as the probable impetus for his fatal arrhythmia. (His pajamas pants around his ankles, of course, are a dead giveaway.)

    Researching this story in the Tupelo library, I was struck by the irony of one of the first newspaper headlines I encountered in the vertical file: "Death Won't Dethrone The King." That particular banner, which heralded an affectionate tribute to his career and made no reference to the manner in which Elvis had died, was more prescient than the headline writer could ever have imagined.

    We PoopReporters know better than to take this bodily function for granted. For many of us, and certainly for Elvis, it can be a source of great consternation and travail; but while we joke and share our stories about it, it was straining on the porcelain throne that caused The King to abdicate his reign over rock n' roll.

    Posted 08.15.2004 by The Big Wiper (2292)

    Toxicologists based at the University of Utah have completed laboratory studies of autopsy specimens from the body of Elvis Presley and have found that 11 drugs were present in the singer's system at the time of his death, The Tribune has learned.

    All of those drugs were consistent with medical treatment, said the director of the Center for Human Toxicology, Dr. Bryan S. Finkle. He spoke to The Tribune in an exclusive interview. The Center had been called in to provide a third toxicological analysis of typical autopsy specimens from Presley's body.

    He reported, "We have not detected any drug in Elvis that doesn't have a medical rationale to it - only agents prescribed for perfectly normal, rational medical reasons."

    Dr. Finkle said the singer had not been drinking prior to his sudden death, which reportedly was blamed on an erratic heartbeat, last Aug. 16. Efforts by the Tribune to obtain a copy of the report by the Center for Human Toxicology have not been successful.

    The Center received the first of the autopsy specimens on Oct. 4, and when The Tribune learned of this Dr. Finkle postponed requested interviews for professional reasons as he was acting in a consultant's role and in that, cannot talk in specifics.

    He spoke, when interviewed, in general that, yes, he had been involved in the case and that he found 11 drugs, all consistent with medical treatment. Of course, that the entertainer did have prescription drugs in Elvis Presley´s system at the time of death has previously been reported. Most accounts mentioned from eight to 10 drugs.

    The Center for Human Toxicology, which has an international reputation among toxicologists and forensic scientists, was the third organization called in in this phase of the Presley autopsy. The others were the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.,and Bio-Science Laboratories, Van Nuys, Calif. Bio-Science requested the Center of Human Toxicology conduct the third examination, said Dr. Finkle.

    While certain agencies, including the center based at the University of Utah, and the Shelby County, Tennessee, Medical Examiner's Office, involved in this story receive public monies, it appears unlikely that there will be disclosure of specifics about the toxicological analysis. The autopsy performed was done at the request of the Presley family.

    In a nutshell, rights of privacy prevail and the parties appear to have no legal duty and are not compelled to disclose certain documents, in particular the toxicological report of the Center for Human Toxicology.

    Dr. Finkle, as a consultant in the Elvis Presley case, said he wrote a two-page report based on his findings at the request of Bio-Science. In it he lists the found drugs, their concentrations and he concludes with an opinion as to the potential or possible toxicological consequences of having this number of drugs in these concentrations in a body.

    The laboratory results here apparently satisfied Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Jerry T. Francisco that Elvis Presley's death could not be attributed to drug overdose. However , it was learned that the death certificate was signed before the final Finkle report was mailed. Dr. Finkle's opinion was solicited earlier by a phone call, and Dr. Francisco later said publicly that the prescriptions drugs found in the singer's system were not a contributing factor.

    The Associated Press, reporting on a press conference Dr. Francisco called last Oct. 21, quoted the medical examiner as saying that four drugs were found in significant quantities in the entertainer's bloodstream.

    They are Ethinamate, Methaqualone, codeine and barbiturates. The first two are sedatives; codeine is a narcotic analgesic or milder, secondary pain killer, and barbiturates are "downers" or sedatives or depressants. Dr. Francisco was quoted as saying that four other drugs-the antihistamine chlorpheniramine, meperidine, morphine and Valium-were found in what were said to be insignificant amounts.

    Meperidine and morphine are pain killers and Valium is a tranquilizer. Presley was not taking morphine ; the morphine was a byproduct of the codeine. The AP said Dr. Francisco said the amount of drugs found in Presley's body, collectively, would not have constituted a drug overdose. And he said it was unlikely that the drugs' chemical reactions within the body could have contributed to his death.

    He said Elvis Presley died of a heart disease. "Had these drugs not been there, he still would have died." Dr. Francisco was quoted as saying that the press conference. But at this time the Finkle report was not in hand. It was not completed until December.

    Nonetheless, the death certificate was signed at a point-just prior to the release of the Finkle report-where tests were sufficiently completed so that authorities could conclude that the drugs did not contribute to the death.

    Officially, Dr. Francisco said in Memphis in October that Elvis Presley's death was caused by hypertensive heart disease with coronary artery disease as a contributing factor. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Eric Muirhead, chief of pathology at Baptist Memorial Hospital. The autopsy was reportedly most thorough.

    While Dr. Finkle would not be specific, he did give some solid information. He said that he found no Ritalin in the specimens. Ritalin is a stimulant and a trade name for preparations of methylphenidate. Dr. Finkle said he had been specifically asked to look for this drug among other agents.

    As a toxicologist and not a medical doctor, Dr. Finkle will not even remotely discuss or determine cause of death. If he has an opinion he is keeping it to himself.

    The 42-year-old- Elvis Presley was found face down on the floor of a bathroom at Graceland, his 18-room mansion, at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 16. He had been last seen alive that day about 6 a.m. after playing racquet ball with members of his entourage. He was a sick man. He had hypertension and a colon problem. Efforts to revive the singer were abandoned that day at 3:30 p.m. at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

    The autopsy was reportedly very thorough and careful with several doctors participating. Dr. Finkle explained that it is routine in any medical-legal investigation for there to be three facets to a scene investigation of what were the circumstances surrounding the death; the medical-legal autopsy, and support investigation in clinical or toxicological laboratories.

    And, the Elvis Presley case was reportedly conducted along routine lines. When taken to the hospital, there was reportedly suspicion that Presley died of what might loosely be called a heart attack; there were signs of cardiac arrest and cardiovascular blood flow problems. Autopsy specimens were routinely sent to the laboratory, and it was decided to have two toxicology labs do the work-the hospital's and Bio-Science. Dr. Finkle said, "as far as I know" there was no conflict between the two toxicologists, but there was some medical opinion differences as to what quantitative amounts of the drugs might mean relative to Elvis Presley's death.

    The physician who conducted the autopsy, Dr. Muirhead, did not respond to a telephone call and letters from The Tribune. Shelby County Medical Examiner Dr. Francisco responded that the autopsy was done at the family request and with family authorization by the pathology staff of Baptist Memorial Hospital. This separated him for authorized toxicology studied and he is unauthorized to release any reports, he said.

    "What he have done," said Dr. Finkle, "is to conduct a routine, complete series of forensic toxicological analyses on specimens and determine quantitatively what drugs were present in the victim and in what breakdown and we were asked what this means: is it germane to Elvis death, did he die of drugs or didn't he?" said Dr. Finkle.

    Elvis Presley's illnesses included hypertension, some cardiovascular compromise and a colon obstruction. He fought a losing battle with a weight problem for several years.

    "As a toxicologist, if you ask me why he had the drugs (in Elvis system), the answer is that he needed them medically. All the drugs were in a range consistent with therapy and therapeutic requirements for known conditions of illnesses which he had," Dr. Finkle s



  2. Sam Spade
    I find this all rather fascinating too. I mean, I am anal about my bowel movements. I don't know how a man could tolerate not shitting correctly for that long. Anyway, I guess we'll never know exactly what killed him besides just the fact his body was just poisoned with all sorts of things. I feel kind of sorry for him. They just didn't have all the medical knowledge they needed to treat him correctly. Laxatives aren't going to help you if you're that impacted and still eating and doing the same things. I had a brother who had the exact same thing happene to him but they caught it in time before any permanent damage was caused.
  3. beentheredonethatagain
    imagine how much king sized shit this poor bastard had stored in him, no wonder he was 'all shook up'
  4. Potter
    I've seen some reasonable evidence that a quart or so of salad along side a strong poppy seed tea, effectively counters the constipation. Unfortunately for Elvis, fresh salad greens do not go well with peanut-butter, and they don't hold up in the fryer, so the chances of a plate of salad ending up in front of Elvis are pretty low, other then those incidences where he had to walk past a salad bar on the way to the dessert bar, and it seems unlikely he would have noticed it.

    The man was not known for his personal upkeep or hygiene, I suspect he had jsut as much of a hand in his own death as anyone else, if not more.
  5. corvardus
    I'm finding this a little bit of a low blow.

    If this solution was presented to anyone with a problem like that as a solution even if they were chronic fast-food consumers they would treat the "fresh salad greens" as a "medicine" and would be endured. If I had a shit that was months in coming I'd treat it as a medicine and if it worked would stick to it religiously.
  6. Sam Spade
    Well like the Dr. talked about, Elvis was a "man's man." He seemed to think he was a tad bit invincible so who knows what he might've done had he been told he had to change his eating habits. Maybe he would've seen eating a salad as something a bit too sissy.
  7. Paradoxical Frog
    LOL! I hope that was deliberate :laugh:

    Sorry, I am rather childish in my humour! This is an interesting subject for me, as my boyfriend is a rather big Elvis fan and gets quite upset when people throw the old "he died on the toilet" story around. I've even been told off for it before! From what he's told me about Elvis and these articles, it seems the poor guy really did suffer a hell of a lot in his final years.

    Onto the subject of poop, I used to work in a learning disabilities care home and one of our service users (that's our ultra PC industry way of saying "residents"!) had a lot of bowel problems and I assume she still does. The last time I was there she was being given strong laxatives 3 times a day every day (Movocol and Senna), was incredibly loose and yet still looked about 8 months pregnant with the amount of matter backed up in there! Every couple of months she'd spend a few days in hospital basically throwing up fecal matter and being incredibly ill with it all. To be honest, it's a wonder she's still alive and hasn't succumbed to septacemia or other complications yet, she suffers so badly :(

    Bowel problems and constipation are no laughing matter and can become very dangerous very quickly, so to me it's not totally unreasonable that this is what killed Elvis if he was suffering for a while. If one has severe constipation then simple laxatives don't always do the trick, and a severe obstruction may have to be removed surgically.
  8. Sam Spade
    Haha yes it was deliberate. I was hoping somebody would mention it. :laugh:

    I agree actually. Elvis did suffer from complications but back then they just didn't know how to treat them as well as they do now. Plus I don't trust this Dr. that prescribed him all that medicine. It seems that it was just all sorts of factors that could've caused his death.

    Sorry to hear about this girl. I don't think I'd be strong enough to deal with that to be honest. I couldn't stand living like that. I read an article about a man who only had a pound of feces built up in him and was suffering from the same complications you described. Your digestive system is really your body's lifeline. It it fails all sorts of things will start to go wrong.
  9. thebige
    Loved by millions,and still died alone on the toilet........what a way to go.
  10. Paradoxical Frog
    Good good, glad to see I'm not the only childish one! :laugh:

    Yeah, it's really sad about her because she's profoundly learning disabled and doesn't really understand what's going on. She's happy enough a lot of the time but everyone there is really worried about this digestive stuff. Even though she used to batter the crap out of me, I still feel really really sorry for her :(

    And yes I think a lot of people don't really understand how important it is. I've spent the last few years cleaning up shit and wiping arses, so talking about poo in all it's glory doesn't really phase me, but I know a lot of people won't talk about that area so could be ignoring serious problems..
  11. Dickon
    One thing that perplexes me about all this is the combination of chronic constipation with the spontaneous on-stage log extrusions. When I've been constipated spontaneous poo release was not a feature of the condition. Are we talking about a build up of sphincto-colonic pressure facilitated by pelvic gyration that would partially release the congested mass of 5 month-old peanut butter, squirrels and lard that may well have constituted the predominant component of his colon or is there some other better medical explanation? Perhaps the increase in Mr Presley's temperature which one may suppose would happen on stage might have helped partially liquefy the solid matter thus aiding what might have been rather explosive trouser-filling incidents. Any light shed on this would both amuse and edify me. The mind boggles.

  12. dyingtomorrow
    From what I've read he consumed enormous amounts of codeine which might at least partially explain the constipation - initially filling him to the brim (or rim) with shit prior to a concert. He also used amphetamines too, probably to get himself juiced for the show, which, coupled with heat and pelvic gyrations, would comprehensively explain why he'd crap his pants on stage.
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