Feature

The lesson in Ledger’s death

The New York medical examiner announced on Wednesday that Heath Ledger’s death was the result of an accidental overdose. The “key lesson from Heath Ledger’s death” seems to be that “it’s not the dose so much as the mix,” said Jacob Goldstein in a Wall Str

What happened
The New York medical examiner announced on Wednesday that Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose. Six types of painkillers and sedatives were found in the actor’s system. “While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy,” said the star’s father, Kim Ledger, in a statement. “Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage.” (AP)

What the commentators said
The “key lesson from Heath Ledger’s death” seems to be that “it’s not the dose so much as the mix,” said Jacob Goldstein in a Wall Street Journal blog. “While painkillers can be deadly at high doses, many drugs can’t do too much damage in isolation.” But mixing them is a big problem in this country: “In 2005, nearly 600,000 people showed up at the ER because of side effects from non-medical use of prescription drugs—and most of those people had taken more than one drug.”

Ledger’s autopsy report “raises unsettling questions,” said Jennifer Barrett in Newsweek.com. Such as: “Why did the actor have so many prescription drugs in his possession? And was he properly informed of the potentially deadly result of combining the drugs or ingesting more than the prescribed amount at one time?”

The bottom line is that “Ledger didn’t care to calculate or remember which prescription drugs he’d taken,” said Jeffrey Wells in the blog Hollywood Elsewhere, “much less assess their combined effect upon his body.” People can call it an accident all they want, “but the blunt answer is that Heath did it to himself.” A “tree didn’t fall on him—actions have consequences.”

“It’s completely idiotic for anyone to sit in judgment of Ledger and assume he didn’t care about himself or his daughter or he wouldn’t have taken all those pills,” said Kim Voynar in the blog Cinematical. “Depression and anxiety and sleep deprivation are all” very difficult to deal with, and “to assume that just because” Ledger was rich and famous he “was immune to the effects” of these problems is just plain “ignorance.” Maybe if the media “didn’t hound” celebrities “every time they have a problem,” it would be easier for stars “to seek help before they get to the point that they’re medicating into an early grave—accidental or not.”

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