Doctor: Cause of Warmbier's Coma 'Almost a Moot Point'

Family has decided against an autopsy
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2017 5:17 AM CDT
In this March 16, 2016 photo, American student Otto Warmbier is seen at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang,.   (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin, File)
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(Newser) – Otto Warmbier's funeral is on Thursday and the 22-year-old's family has decided against having an autopsy first, the Hamilton County, Ohio coroner says. The coroner's office says, contrary to earlier reports, that the family has requested there be no autopsy, though an "external examination" was carried out Tuesday and his medical records are being examined, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. "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 office said in a statement. Warmbier died Monday, just days after he was returned from detention in North Korea in a coma.

Doctors in Cincinnati disputed Pyongyang's claim that botulism led to Warmbier's condition. But they found no fractures or other signs of trauma, and experts tell the Washington Post that any number of things, including torture or a drug overdose, could have caused the coma. They agree, however, that things would probably have been different with better treatment. The cause is "almost a moot point," says Duke University professor of neurology Daniel Laskowitz. "Whatever they did to him—they took a healthy kid, put him under horrible conditions, mental and physical anguish ... they left him at risk, didn’t treat him properly, didn’t tell anyone," he says. (Lawmakers including Sen. John McCain say Warmbier was murdered by Kim Jong Un's regime.)

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