The family of Otto Warmbier declined to have an autopsy performed on him, so the cause of the deterioration of his health while he was imprisoned in North Korea remains unknown.
A statement from the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office in Ohio said that Warmbier’s family decided that an “external examination” would be performed on him instead of a thorough autopsy.
“No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview,” the statement said.
Warmbier’s funeral will take place Thursday at the high school he attended in Wyoming, Ohio.
Warmbier’s parents say he became ill while he was imprisoned in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel. The North Koreans claimed that Warmbier contracted botulism and became comatose after taking a sleeping pill. Following 17 months of detainment, Warmbier was released last week by the North Koreans and flown to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Doctors at the Ohio hospital discovered no traces of active botulism, a toxin that can cause nerve damage. Warmbier remained in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” until he died Monday.
In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Daniel Laskowitz, a professor of neurology at Duke University, said that death following several months in a “persistent vegetative state” would be the result of an infection or a blood clot.
“If you are in a persistent vegetative state and you are just immobile for a prolonged period of time, you have a propensity to form a clot,” Laskowitz said. “That can be catastrophic and precipitous.”
Laskowitz noted that Warmbier’s the long flight from North Korea to Ohio could have caused a blood clot to form or encourage an existing clot to spread to his lungs.
Warmbier’s family released a statement Monday saying that “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
Warmbier’s father, Fred Warmbier, spoke out Thursday regarding the Obama administration’s role during his son’s captivity.
Meanwhile, photos have been released of Warmbier in North Korea enjoying his study abroad experience prior to his arrest.
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