Medical examiner says Prince died from painkiller overdose

A long-awaited autopsy report on music sensation Prince has been released, declaring the cause of his death as an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Prince performing at a concert.

Weeks after the iconic music sensation Prince was found dead in his Minnesota home, a long-awaited autopsy report was released on Thursday by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, confirming the cause of his death as an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.

The press release, which came in the form of tweet from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, was short and included references to his height, weight, what he was wearing, scars on his body, and how the death occurred.

"The decedent self-administered fentanyl."

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, which is about 50 times more potent than morphine, is generally used to treat patients with severe pain or to help them manage pain after surgery. It’s a schedule II drug, which has a high potential for abuse that may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

The 57-year-old pop star, born as Prince Rogers Nelson, was found unresponsive on April 21 at his Paisley Park residence and recording studio in Minnesota and was later declared dead.

It came less than a week after his plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois, for medical treatment as he was returning from an Atlanta concert.

Although his autopsy was performed the day following his death, results of toxicology tests typically take several weeks to come back.

Authorities are now focused on investigating how the pop star obtained the drugs and whether he had a prescription or not.

In the weeks leading up to his death, the music sensation met with a Minneapolis-area family physician, Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg, on April 7 and April 20. Although the doctor had prescribed Prince medication, it has yet not been revealed what this was or if the pop legend took it.  

Schulenberg’s attorney declined to comment on the case.

Additionally, a California addiction specialist, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, was contacted the day before Prince’s death for advice by the pop star's representatives.

Kornfeld, sent his son Andrew to Minnesota that night with intentions of giving a medication named buprenorphine to a Minnesota doctor who had cleared his schedule to see Prince on April 21. Buprenorphine is used to treat opioid addiction by easing withdrawal symptoms, William Mauzy, the Kornfeld’s attorney said.

The name of the doctor has not been identified, however Schulenberg is not authorised to provide buprenorphine.

Andrew Kornfeld was among the first to find the superstar unresponsive.

According to US federal law, illegally distributing fentanyl to someone who then dies from it is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. The same actions can result in third-degree murder charges and up to 25 years in prison under Minnesota law.

Friends and family did not know of Prince having drug related addictions and claim he was very cautious of what he put into his body. He was a strict vegan and Jehovah's Witness, who did not smoke or even drink coffee.

However, a collaborator and longtime friend of the pop sensation told the Associated Press that Prince had suffered from physical issues due to performing on stage, citing hip and knee problems that she claimed came from years of jumping off risers and stage speakers in heels. 

A makeshift memorial is seen as fans gather at Harlem's Apollo Theatre to celebrate the life of Prince in Manhattan, New York.

TRTWorld and agencies