Elvis Presley, one of our great pop culture icons, was found unresponsive on the bathroom floor at his home, Graceland, in Memphis on August 16, 1977. He was officially pronounced dead at 3:30 pm at Baptist Memorial Hospital. What took his life at 42?
The coroner recorded the cause of death as cardiac arrhythmia, a condition that can be determined only in someone who is still alive. This has caused claims of a cover-up. What was not recorded was Elvis’s addiction to the drugs codeine, Valium, morphine, and Demerol, just to name a few. While Presley’s main physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, was exonerated of criminal liability for the singer’s death, the facts were startling. The Tennessee Medical Board, which investigated the case, found that Nichopoulos had prescribed Presley more than 10,000 doses of narcotics, amphetamines, and sedatives, and that was just in the first 8 months of 1977. The medical board suspended Nichopoulos for 3 months, and in 1995, his license was permanently revoked.
In 1994, coroner Dr. Joseph Davis reopened the Presley autopsy and stated “There is nothing in any of the data that supports a death from drugs. In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.” Polypharmacy undoubtedly contributed to Elvis’s premature death, even if it was not the final cause.
Forensic historian and pathologist Michael Baden views the situation as more complex: “Elvis had had an enlarged heart for a long time. That, together with his drug habit, caused his death. But he was difficult to diagnose; it was a judgment call.”
Nichopoulos, who acted as Elvis’s personal physician for the last 12 years of his life, claims chronic constipation killed Elvis in his bookThe King and Dr. Nick.
In a 2010 Fox News interview, he stated, “We didn’t realize until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad-we knew it was because it was hard for us to treat, but we didn’t realize what it had done.”
According his autopsy, the diameter of Elvis’s colon was 5 to 6 inches, which is about double the size of the typical person’s, and instead of being 4 to 5 feet long, his colon was 8 to 9 feet in length.
“We found stool in his colon which had been there for four or five months because of the poor motility of the bowel.”
Nichopoulos noted that Elvis had inherited a condition called bowel paralysis, which made defecating difficult.
“He would get embarrassed,” he said. “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.”
Treating the problem correctly in the early 1970s would have necessitated performing a colostomy. Elvis didn’t want to have anything to do with it. “If they had done the colostomy then, he’d probably still be here,” Nichopoulos said.
Presley’s funeral was held at Graceland on Thursday, August 18. Approximately 80,000 people lined the processional route to Forest Hill Cemetery. Outside the gates, a car plowed into a group of fans, killing 2 women and critically injuring a third. Presley was buried next to his mother. Later in August, there was an attempt to steal “The King’s” body, which prompted authorities to exhume and rebury the remains of both Elvis Presley and his mother in Graceland’s Meditation Garden.
Elvis Presley. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvis_Presley.
Here’s what really killed Elvis Presley. Rediff.com Web site. Published May 6, 2010. http://www.rediff.com/movies/report/heres-what-really-killed-elvis-presley/20100506.htm.
Higginbotham A. Doctor Feelgood. The Guardian Web site. Published August 10, 2002. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2002/aug/11/features.magazine27.
Simpson T. How did Elvis Presley die? About.com Memphis. Web site, http://memphis.about.com/od/elvis/f/elvisdeath.htm.
Sheridan M. Chronic constipation killed Elvis Presley, claims his personal physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos. The Daily News Web site. Published May 6, 2010. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-05-06/gossip/27063697_1_constipation-george-nichopoulos-elvis-presley.
bexy 12:32am, 11/27/2013
multiple people have said he was always constipated (for whatever reason). and his colon was huge with months old poop in it. he likely died while sitting on the toilet, holding his breath, and trying to, well, push it out. not a totally uncommon way to die. also I read that the autopsy concluded he didn’t have high levels of any drugs in his system when he died.
jim Frame 11:34pm, 11/23/2013
I agree that Elvis was the cause of his own demise, however many people utilize drugs and alcohol in their everyday life to cope with stress and pressure, so it is no surprise to me that Elvis would live this high pressured life in a chemical fog
Ashley 02:02am, 11/17/2013
Yes I do. I have the bowel paralysis . I take operates for pain. Not nearly like The King. But it’s an awful thing. Yes docs would give him anything he wanted. Good entertainer until so called friends took Elvis to the grave for greed. What would Elvis be today? Listen to his gospel music. I’ll always remember when
Driving: The King is dead. Shame on greedy people even in today’s music. It’s the money. Who cares about the person. There will never be a mover like him. Michael Jackson. His people ruined his raw talent. Interesting . Rock on forever with good and not destructive people, drugs but from that innate.
SavartiTN 10:17pm, 10/09/2013
The problem described could have also been caused by Acute Intermittent Porphyria. The opiates would have compounded the problem. However, AIP would have caused a huge need for pain relief. AIP causes mood swings, irrational behavior, breathing problems, abdominal pain, muscle pain and weakness. I would be curious to know if he ever had discolored urine…a classic sign of AIP. Unfortunately, fasting…which Elvis did in his last two days…can bring on a life threatening attack. Porphyria can kill by causing the heart and breathing to stop.
cowtowncritter 09:59pm, 09/16/2013
I was a small kid for my age, 16 I think. Some how dad got tickets for our family of five. Mom was his greatest fan. I excused myself to the facilities. Covertly worked my way to the stage. The girls were frantic, pushed and ran over me. Then some how Elvis got thru to give me a scarf-for mom of course. He went out of his way for a poor scrawny kid. My effort put me in mom’s good graces. In truth Elivs was an still is ‘The King’
tabatha 08:09pm, 09/08/2013
Ummm as someone who knows a lot about opiates…....they cause severe constipation….....good job dr.nick.
Don van der Deijl 07:30pm, 09/08/2013
I read a lot about Elvis including the bodyguard book. I did not read Dr. Nick,s book because I think the man did not deserve the title Doctor! Ok I think Elvis indeed died from a heart attack but the major cause was drugs and his food habits. As we all know all of his so called friends and family never say no to him. As I understood the only one who tried was Larry Gellar. When you read Joe Esposito,s book he said “you have to be there to understand” well ANYBODY special in the last year could have seen something was really wrong with Elvis. He looks very depressive and U guess he was because he finally noticed he was alone. The betrayal off his oldest friend Red West who sold his story for money . He knew at the end he had no real friends. He had his ex wife Pricilla and I guess Linda was a great person but they were gone too because they cant, live with him. At the end he was surrounded by junkies like the Stanley brothers . And off course Joe was there but nobody did anything . When I was Joe at the time I would have called the police for taken Elvis into hospital . I would have told the press how Dr Needle described so many pills. That must have been hurt him but probably saved him as well. The people would forgive him and feel sorry for him . Elvis was a good person I, absolute sure about that but he was spoiled an hopeless depressive at the end and nobody did a thing NOBODY
ANONYMOUS 04:29pm, 08/12/2013
I was in Memphis the day Elvis died and heard about it fooling around with a car stereo display at the Sears auto store on Poplar Avenue. I had driven by Baptist Hospital on Union earlier in the afternoon and had noticed a small crowd gathered at one end of it, but thought nothing about it at the time. It was a truly sad day afterwards, listening to every radio station play his music non-stop. To be honest, I was not an Elvis fan at the time - being a 18 year-old at the time, I was into rock bands and thought Elvis was a has-been. However, after I started listening to his music and reading about him, I have been an ardent fan ever since, reading about and listening to everything I could get my hands on about him. Elvis no-doubt had a lot of problems with drugs (among other issues) - he felt he needed them to keep going and also just liked the feeling they gave him at the moment. I don’t blame Dr. Nick for Elvis’ death - he really cared about Elvis and tried his best to thwart Elvis’ out-of-control, insatiable appetite for drugs. In the end, Elvis had a self-destructive personality and was responsible for his own death. I am a great admirer of Elvis and think he was the greatest entertainer of all time and really hate it that he died so young - but I won’t blame others for Elvis’ own shortcomings.
Samantha 01:44am, 08/12/2013
I heard he also had over 50 pounds of poop in him.
Anonymous II 12:02am, 08/05/2013
Regarding Elvis’s death, it’s worth noting the coroner who in the 90s reviewed Elvis’s medical history and autopsy report supported Elvis’s death being caused by a massive heart attack and not a drug overdose. Elvis’s medical and autopsy records had been sent out by the county commissioners of Shelny county, TN, hellbent on getting something they could use to oust Dr. Jerry Francisco, the doctor who actually said Elvis died from cardiac arrhythmia. He said that very early on because the news media was wanting the scoop on what killed Elvis. Dr. Francisco was not a popular man with the Shelby county commissioners in TN because he had supported the Memphis police in a controversial shooting in which the police were involved. The county commissioners, having long heard the story of how Elvis “died from an overdose,” wanted to use his death to get rid of Francisco. They obtained Presley’s medical and autopsy records, along with numerous other medical and autopsy records of other deceased individuals and sent them out to various coroners across the US for review. Elvis’s medical and autopsy records was changed on the name to that of another individual - that of a woman who had died, but not the medical history or autopsy results. The exact name was someone only the county commissioners would know for sure, but when the results came back, they had no case against Francisco because the coroner from the 90s concluded that the person in question died from a violent heart attack.
And about the drugs in Elvis’s system, the majority were in the therapeutic range with two in the toxic range. But, the news media misrepresented the legal definition of toxic. All that meant was that the two drugs in Elvis’s system would’ve made him sick. Had the drugs been fatal to Elvis, the legal definition would’ve been read either as lethal or fatal. By the way, there were a couple of Elvis’s medicine bottles up on ebay a few years ago. I was looking at a story on them. One was for high blood pressure (inderal) and the other drug was to prevent heart attacks - forget the name of the second drug but I did find that interesting that Elvis would be prescribed a drug to prevent a heart attack. Both of the drugs were prescribed in 1976.
Regarding the doctors at the hospital who did the autopsy, when the doctors at the hospital concluded Elvis died from an overdose, they were just as guilty in jumping the gun as to the cause of Elvis’s death as what they had claimed Dr. Francisco to be guilty of. They were attributing Elvis’s death to polypharmacy before any toxicology reports had come back. According to Dan Warlicke, chief medical investigator for Shelby county at the time, the doctors who did the autopsy had found nothing conclusive that could point to an exact cause of death. But, Elvis had an enlarged heart, suffered from high blood pressure, had glaucoma, was borderline diabetic, suffered from both a blocked and enlarged colon. And he was overweight. Warlicke felt the blocked colon may have caused Elvis’s heart to fail. The doctors couldn’t find a cause of death yet the enlarged heart, high blood pressure and being borderline diabetic, combined with being overweight and his diet put him at a great risk for a heart attack or stroke. Anyone who is diabetic knows that just having high blood pressure and being overweight is a danger to one’s health. Add in an enlarged heart, and you may be living on borrowed time.
And, by the way, one more word on the drugs: I worked in a pharmacy for several years and I can tell you there were people who had a large number of prescriptions that exceeded anything Elvis ever had. People make a big deal about the 11-14 drugs that were in Elvis’s system, but I saw prescriptions filled for customers that were on the order of 25-35 different drugs. Yes, people can die from drugs but the drugs can also keep people with fatal illnesses alive a lot longer than what they would be without them.
Elvis wasn’t in good health the last year of his life. Some of the people who worked for him said he wasn’t in good health the last three years of his life. I base a lot of what I’m saying here on what I’ve read, heard and seen over the years since Elvis died. That includes what people who worked for Elvis had to say, and what the medical authorities have to say. I keep an open but somewhat skeptical mind. The news media have made Elvis’s death all about the drugs in his system, and succeeded wildly in getting people to believe Elvis was an overdose. But, when the coroner in the 90s concluded Elvis was a heart attack victim, few in the media bothered to report that. Instead, many quoted the lead doctor in the autopsy saying Elvis died from an overdose. But, they were reporting an old story and not something that was new at the time. The news media was disingenuous and what they did was dishonest.
Jonathan 07:58am, 08/04/2013
I think is was his time, he went to be with God.
kaljemi 09:23pm, 07/09/2013
I forgot to tell you what really killed Elvis ! All of us did !! We each played a part in his greatness and more times than not these fragile shells we live in break forever !! Now you really know.
kaljemi 09:03pm, 07/09/2013
I was an 11 year old kid, queuing records on the great WAYS radio station behind the StarCastel restaurant in Charlotte, NC. It was called the StarCastle Review-every night just like the old time drive in theaters except the people came to look at the great WAYS & listen to Elvis. And what great 45s they were in 1956. Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suade Shoes, I got a woman, Baby let’s play house, Love me Tender Yes my baby left me, Your right,I’m left,she gone. And don’t forget his first movie in 1956, Love Me Tender. And who needed drugs back then?? You’re right, nobody !!
Mark 10:17am, 07/09/2013
The subject of the “Kings” death and it’s ultimate cause can ONLY be contributed to multiple drug use and abuse it doesnt matter that they were “prescribed” or not. The years of abuse..the long terms effect caught up drastically just after 73 - 74 (just look at how quickly he deteriated both in looks etc after this point. Drug abuse WILL get you in the end so it does not really matter what they put on the death certificate…the cause were drugs. And again it is a fact that opiates - especially codeine or derivitives are a major cause of constipation. The doctors were all guilty of malpractice for personal gain - of course Elvis used this fact to his advantage because he was a hopelss addict…that was the real tragedy.
Elvis is alive. 09:12am, 06/18/2013
Nothing has killed him YET
Brian Sneddon 05:14am, 06/14/2013
I have studied extensively upon this subject, out of both medical interest, and personal interest. Straight to the point, when someone is using the combination of uppers (amphetamines), Downers (Barbiturates, benzodiazepines, etc) and Opiates, in the circumstances of this death I have found the following to be my belief and most likely to have occurred. Elvis was known to cold turkey his barbiturates up to a week before tours, so he could be more cohearant in the later 70’s. He was also known to increase his uppers at this point as well. Given this information, my opinion is that this caused him to go into an epileptic fit on the toilet, thus being the reason why nobody heard him ask for help, and also the reason his tongue was partially bitten off when he was found. Vomit was also departing from his mouth while he was found in the fetal position… The fact the autopsy found inconsistant and small amounts of Barbiturates, further would support too fast of a withdrawl leading to a seizure… Any thoughts on this would be more than welcome !
jimbo 06:50pm, 05/29/2013
I think the woman who just told me that Elvis Presley is still alive and is in the witness protection program is out of her mind after having chronic pain for thirty years and have had addiction problems it is in my opinion or has been my experience that Elvis took too much too often and poor drug addicts usually outlive the rich ones do I personally have known 50 or more to DIE FROM THIS DISEASE HE WAS ALONE NOBODY TO HELP “JOHN LENON SAID THAT WHEN ONE OF THE BEATLES WENT OFF THE OTHERS WHERE THERE TO HELP” and there were just the same old people who didn’t want to see him change because then everything would have changed.
Paul Lake 10:28pm, 05/15/2013
You know the saying “*hit happens” and the higher you are the greater the fall? Been checking out the passing of Marilyn and Jayne and somewhere in all of this there is a thread-just not sure where but there is some kind of connection.I’m facing my own scene right now and I see how easily circumstances cause “*hit to happen”.
tawana 02:13pm, 05/13/2013
Amazing this sounds very similar to the excuses made for Michael Jackson’s drug use. We make excuses for pop stars but he was enjoying all the drugs while he was here, just be honest that it caused his death
Xhevat Daci 02:08pm, 05/09/2013
Elvis Presley is King of rock roll
angela 01:21pm, 05/01/2013
REDRUM to appear accidental and gradual. Why we willl never know exactly. He was suicidal for a long time and he was never sent to a psychiatric institution for it to find out why. Dr. Nick was his damn OBGYN. He was with many women at the end of his concerts. Am I allowed to say that?
Hallyie 03:17pm, 04/24/2013
I think his docter was jelous of his talents
MS 03:35pm, 04/23/2013
no matter what or how he died,the fact is the finger pointing will always be their because because we will never really know the TRUTH.
i just think that he had a WONDERFUL WONDERFUL voice,and just like any other person with so much money,he might have thought he was in control of his well being and of course if he was addicted to any drugs he was able to get plenty of them,any person with money can get them he just also had people to get them for him and make it look like he might need them,is was a TRAGIC loss.and he was a kind and very giving person from what is told.
love you Elvis!
Andrew 10:48am, 04/22/2013
my personal belief is that he commited suicide he was very lonely with out his wife and daughter listen to his later music and you can tell that he was going threw an emotional he**
Bob McLoughlin 07:35pm, 04/19/2013
What effect did the Colonel have on Elvis’ health - not a lot, it seems.
CC 11:16am, 04/19/2013
HPAULIE 03:14pm, 04/18/2013
Well i can tell you after reading this that Elvis was a goner’..ive used opiates and they cause your bowels to stiffen and borderline constipation in healthy people,Elvis had a Hereditary sickness with his bowel from the get-go not being able to poop,and his use and enjoyment of Opiate’s on top of his condition..awww man think about it,..a two month old Turd that never got deposited in the toilet and theres been more made since,but you have a plumbing problem,..Heart attack, stroke..hell U name it with all that Poison stored in your body..DEAD..is DEAD..Everybody is leaving some sooner’ than others..
Angie Luna 10:54pm, 04/15/2013
I wish Elvis was still alive
Brian D Brooks E.M.T A.E.D MD.(306)728-4731 07:47pm, 04/03/2013
I have studied as much as possible over the last Two decades and have Spoken to DR. Nick. It is my opinion that DR. Nick treated his patient Elvis Presley in the most professional manner! It is also my belief that Dr. Nick stated it correctly in his book, This man did more for Elvis than anybody will ever know. I just wish that we had more DR’s like him! Thank You DR. Nick!!!!
Jacob 09:49am, 04/01/2013
this was a very helpful website for our school project
A. Schimmel 06:31am, 03/03/2013
In the Dr. & E’s friends’ defense…could anyone ever say no to Elvis?
Geoff 06:34pm, 02/10/2013
Sounds to me like the Dr was in it for only one thing regardless of the out come
Money Greed of so many people
Steve 05:06pm, 02/03/2013
What a load of crap all of it! Elvis yes was to blame at the end of the day he took the s**t! But his doctor and the other Docs and all his so called friends could of helped him more but chose to enjoy the gravy train! wish i had friends like them not!!!
Jim 09:34pm, 01/26/2013
This Doctor? Was nothing but a leach like everyone else that hung around Elvis. Prescribed over ten thousand pills in three months to one person and constipation killed him ? What a freaking moron if he really thinks anyone with half a brain is gonna believe that. Nope, he was like Elvis’s so called friends. Give him anything he asked for regardless if it was the right thing or not just so that cash cow keeps the money and gifts flowing.
Anonymous 09:06pm, 01/16/2013
Why didn’t the doctor get sent to jail?
Joan 09:42am, 11/20/2012
Elvis had a hereditary condition known as bowel paralysis? I doubt it, the bowel paralysis was most likely caused by the huge amount of narcotics prescribed by his physician. Why did Dr. Nick not lose his license until 1995?
Dr Anderson I Presume 09:38am, 11/20/2012
Do you think the opiates had anything to do with the constipation?, good Dr Nick?
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