Elvis Presley autopsy: Major row over King’s cause of death sparked before mystery report

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Elvis would have turned 86 years old today, had he not sadly died in 1977 after enduring a cardiac arrest in his bathroom in Graceland, Memphis. His death stunned the globe, leading to an outpouring of emotion and tributes to the man defined as creating rock and roll, and popularising a new wave of music. The details of his death have long been debated, with theories on the exact cause still widely discussed in medical circles.

It is hoped that when the notes of the autopsy carried out on Elvis are released in 2027, half-a-century after his death, a greater understanding of how the King perished will be understood.

The details were made private by Elvis’ father, who locked them away until they are legally allowed to be made public.

The singer, who also had a number of film roles during his illustrious career, had a difficult history of substance abuse, including taking prescription drugs, which experts say led to his demise.

But the cause of his death has been at the heart of conspiracy theorists’ discussions for decades.

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Dr Jerry Francisco claimed before the autopsy was complete that the King died by cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly, too slowly or too quickly.

This came as it emerged Dr George Nichopoulos prescribed the musician with 10,000 doses of “sedative, amphetamines and narcotics” in just over half-a-year.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but eventually had his licence revoked for other charges of over-prescribing medication.

It was later argued that Elvis’ death came about due to Valsalva Manoeuvre – a form of constipation commonly caused by drug abuse, by writer Frank Coffey.

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He argued that the constant strains during the bout of constipation forced his heart to stop beating.

This view was shared by physician Dr Dan Warlick – an expert who was present during Elvis’ autopsy.

He said two years ago: “Presley’s chronic constipation — the result of years of prescription drug abuse and high-fat, high-cholesterol gorging brought on what’s known as Valsalva’s manoeuvre.

“Put simply, the strain of attempting to defecate compressed the singer’s abdominal aorta, shutting down his heart.”

Yet, in 1994 Elvis’ autopsy report was reopened.

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Joseph Davis, a veteran of thousands of autopsies as a coroner, said there “is nothing in any of the data that support a death from drugs”, adding: “In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.”

Reports from the time of Elvis’ death show the horror of eyewitnesses who found the body.

One witness said: “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the toilet and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it.

“It was clear that, from the time whatever hit him to the moment he had landed on the floor, Elvis hadn’t moved.”

Attempts to resuscitate the legend were unsuccessful and he died on August 16, 1977.

Elvis is buried in the meditation garden of Graceland next to his parents and grandmother, where thousands of fans come to pay their respects all year round.

Prior to his death, Elvis’ health had been rapidly deteriorating, with the King visibly bigger than the slim star the public had once known.

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His keyboardist Tony Brown recalled the depths of how far his addiction had gone, with the star “falling out of limousines to his knees”.

He added: “People jumped to help, and he pushed them away like, ‘Don’t help me.’”

Guitarist John Wilkinson added: “He was so f***ed up.

“It was obvious he was drugged. It was obvious there was something terribly wrong with his body.”

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