Generations of music fans have asked the question: "How did Elvis Presley die?" The 1977 death of the king of rock and roll shocked and saddened the public when it happened, but even many decades after his death, Elvis' influence on modern music lives on.
How Did Elvis Presley Die - Conflicting Stories
You might think there would be a clear answer to the question of how Elvis died, but in fact, his death remains shrouded in mystery. There are contradictory stories and rumors about how he died, and neither doctors involved in the case nor the family can agree on the true story. It doesn't help, of course, that medical officials involved in the postmortem exam have admitted that they engaged in a cover-up of some of the details of the death in order to protect the family.
The original story that was released about Elvis' death went like this: on the afternoon of August 16, 1977, Elvis' fiancé, Ginger Alden, found him passed out, fully clothed, on the floor of his Graceland bathroom. She called an ambulance, and though paramedics tried to save him, he was pronounced dead at Memphis' Baptist Memorial Hospital at 3:30 CST. An autopsy was performed a few hours later, and doctors determined that he had died from a cardiac arrhythmia.
Eventually, the doctors involved in the autopsy admitted that they had concocted this story to spare the family embarrassment. As it turns out, it is impossible for doctors to diagnose a cardiac arrhythmia after death, and Elvis had never been found to have that condition.
The second version of the story of how did Elvis Presley die is that Elvis had been up most of the night playing racquetball and then, around 6 a.m., told his fiancé that he was going into the bathroom to read. He took a book with him - The Face of Jesus - but going to the bathroom to "read" was something Elvis commonly said when he was going to the bathroom to use drugs. At around 1:30 p.m., Adler went looking for Elvis, and found him passed out on the floor in a pool of vomit, with his pants around his ankles. It is believed he was on the toilet just prior to his death and that he fell off and may have been crawling to get help when he vomited and died. An ambulance was called, but Elvis was already dead. During the autopsy, doctors found that he had high levels of nine different drugs in his system: Morphine, Demerol, Chloropheniramine, Placidyl, Vailum, Codeine, Ethinamate, Quaaludes and an unidentified barbituate. Doctors familiar with the investigation suggest that Elvis had even more drugs in his system, including Nembutal, Sinutab and Valmid.
Although many people assume those large levels of drugs were responsible for Elvis' death, there are two alternative theories. One is that Elvis went into anaphylactic shock specifically because of the Codeine, which had been prescribed after a dental procedure the day before. Elvis had previously had an allergic reaction to the drug. Heart disease was raised as a possible cause when the case was reopened and reexamined in 1994. The medical examiner looking at the case then said he could find no evidence that the death was an overdose. Elvis was overweight at the time of his death, and doctors speculated that obesity related issues could have weakened his heart or his liver.
Dr Nick's Role
One shadowy figure in the death of Elvis was his long time personal physician Dr. George Nichopoulos, who Elvis called Dr. Nick. Dr. Nick is said to have overprescribed drugs for Elvis for years. After Elvis died, investigators discovered that Dr. Nick had written a whopping 10,000 prescriptions for Elvis in the first eight months of 1977 alone. Dr. Nick's medical license was suspended for three months for his role in Elvis' death. He lost it for good in 1995, again for over-prescribing medication. It is interesting to note that Dr. Nick worked as a road manager for Jerry Lee Lewis in the 90s.
Elvis Presley Funeral
Fans made a pilgrimage to Graceland as soon as news of Elvis' death emerged, but the official funeral was held on August 18, 1977. Elvis was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Memphis, next to his mother. Dr. Nick was one of the pallbearers at this funeral.