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Dear Medical Examiner Who Conducted DJ AM’s Autopsy

Dear Medical Examiner,

An accidental overdose?  Really?  Do you think we’re stupid?  I just don’t understand how getting to the point where the drugs in your system are so varied as to be labeled a cocktail can be seen as anything other than on purpose.  How is having cocaine, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Xanax and Ativan, Klonopin, Benadryl, and Levamisole all in your system at the same time be an accident?  As a seasoned drug addict (I am not being disparaging of DJ AM, I am just stating a fact), he should have known better.  That is some cocktail, there. 

I understand the desire of his family to  hold DJ AM’s name and memory in high esteem.  I get that.  But how is an accidental overdose verdict going to accomplish that?  Knowing he had all of those drugs in his system–dude, in his possession–is proof of how powerful addiction can be.  Being sober all those years was a tremendous accomplishment.  But there was something–the plane crash, his alleged breakup with his girlfriend or, hell, just life–that caused DJ AM to fall back into old habits.  I am not sure that “officially” stating the cause of death as an accidental overdose is actually going to make people believe that’s what really happened.  Oh, he had too much Xanax.  Or too much cocaine.  The fact of the matter is, any amount is too much for someone who has exhibited an addiction to such substances in the past. 

Calling this an “accidental overdose” is kind of like saying people who died of emphysema died from accidentally smoking.  Of course it’s an accident.  But it’s an accident based in purpose.   He knew that combination could be deadly.  How could he not?  Any combination of drugs is deadly.  Potentially, any drug on its own is deadly.  I remember when the policemen came to talk to us in elementary school.

I know that leaving out the “accidental” means it was “on purpose” which, pretty much, says  it was a suicide.  And that’s something that is hard to deal with, hard to understand, for those who loved and admired him.  Even for those who didn’t even know him.  It’s sad to hear things like this–a life taken away from us too soon and without warning. 

But our sadness, in itself, is selfish.  And that selfishness compounds the need to wrap our heads and our hearts around what happened…it’s that selfishness that makes concluding something is an accident the easy thing to do.   I’m not saying (and have no authority to say) that it was suicide, but was it really an accident?  Is there anything in between?

 He had eight OxyContin pills in his stomach, one still in his mouth.  This is in addition to everything else that was going through his bloodstream at the same time.  How is consuming all of that badness an accident?  He may not have meant to die, but he meant to use the way he did.  He was alone, no one–except his demons–forced him to do so.  The use of the word accident, here, is clearly a misnomer. 

I know there was probably pressure on you.  And I’m sure that you did all that you could, used all your medical examiner knowledge and experience, when coming to your conclusion.  But I really think you’re doing a disservice.  Yes, accidents happen.  But this, to me, is not the definition of an accident.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

La

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