Sudden Unexplained Death in Schizophrenia


Research in Schizophrenia Research finds that 57 out of 7189 schizophrenia patients admitted between 1989 and 2013 died suddenly and unexpectedly during hospitalization; a rate significantly above that of the general population. Cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological abnormalities were implicated in most cases, however 6 cases (11.8% remained unexplained.

Ifteni, P., Correll, C., Burtea, V., Kane, J., Manu, P; Sudden unexpected death in schizophrenia: Autopsy findings in psychiatric inpatients. Schizophrenia Research. Online April 4, 2014.


  1. Implicated? Did they actually perform autopsies and determine the causes of death? My sister was diagnosed with “schizophrenia” and died a sudden, mysterious death. The assumption was made that it was a heart attack. At autopsy, it was found that it was a pulmonary embolism, which is a side effect of the Risperdal she as taking. How do they know what the causes of death are and how many are drug related?

    If there were a policy that all people taking psych drugs must be autopsied when they die, to determine cause of death, I bet we would learn a lot.

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  2. Dying In Their Sleep: The Invisible Plague Attacking U.S. Soldiers

    While doing research for the book Murder In Baker Company, I came to know many military family members from the support group “Home of the Brave.” The group’s goal is to help one another gain information and justice in the noncombat related deaths of their loved ones. According to the Department of Defense nearly 1 out of 4 fatalities in the military are noncombat related.

    Stan and Shirley White of West Virginia represent one of the “Home of the Brave” families. Three of their four children have served in the armed forces. Two have died because of their time in war. On September 26, 2005, their son Robert, an Army Staff Sergeant, was killed in a rocket attack in Afghanistan. On February 12, 2008, their youngest son, 23 year-old Marine Corporal Andrew White died in his sleep after being treated for PTSD with lethal prescription drugs.

    Struggling with PTSD compounded by grief over the death of his brother, Andrew sought help from VA doctors. Their first line of defense was to prescribe him 20 mg. of Paxil, 4 mg of Klonopin and 50 mg of Seroquel. These medications helped at first, but later proved ineffective. Instead of changing the course of treatment, the doctors responded by continually increasing his dosage until the Seroquel alone reached a whopping 1600 mg per day. Within weeks of Andrew’s death, three more young West Virginia veterans died while being treated for PTSD with the same drugs, prompting Stan and Shirley White to begin a mission to find out what the deaths have in common.

    “When we first learned of the other West Virginia soldiers who died in their sleep,” Stan says. “We thought it must be a reaction to biological warfare, we thought they must have been exposed to something in Iraq and now it is killing them.”

    Indeed, if you conduct an internet search with the phrase “soldier found dead” the results are staggering. Narrow it down even further by including the phrase “unexplained” and you will begin to get a glimpse of what some would call an epidemic.

    When the White’s received Andrew’s autopsy report, the official cause was listed as “accidental intoxication of Seroquel, Paxil, and pain medication.” Andrew had not committed suicide, nor did he take his medication in a manner it was not prescribed. Death, as it turned out, is a potential side effect of Seroquel. The doctors and the pharmaceutical company knew that, however nobody told Andrew, despite the fact that he was experiencing many of Seroquel’s most serious side effects.

    In the 11-months Andrew was taking Seroquel, he gained 40 lbs., suffered from tremors, severe constipation and swelling of the mammary glands. Before his death, a VA doctor referred Andrew to an endocrinologist for tests to determine the cause of his symptoms, even though it is clearly stated in Seroquel’s literature that all of this can be caused by using the drug.

    Andrew passed away before the appointment.

    Dr. Fred Baughman, a neurologist and outspoken critic on the use of anti-psychotic drugs has studied the West Virginia soldier deaths and has determined that “sudden cardiac death” is the cause. In a May 2010 press release, Dr. Baughman states:

    “All were diagnosed with PTSD. All seemed “normal” when they went to bed. And, all were on Seroquel (an antipsychotic) Paxil (an antidepressant) and Klonopin (a benzodiazepine). They were not comatose and unarousable — with pulse and respirations or pulse intact, responsive to CPR, surviving transport to a hospital, frequently surviving. These were sudden cardiac deaths.”

    Between the VA medical doctors and psychiatrists Andrew was going to for help, none tried to assess the effectiveness of these drugs on his PTSD symptoms. They just kept increasing the dosage as if he were a guinea pig in some twisted lab experiment. Whether sudden cardiac death, polypharmacy, or suicide, a prescription tracking system could be a major step toward preventing tragedy.

    To that end, in March 2010, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia called on the Surgeons General from the Department of Defense to provide data regarding prescription drugs in the military. This vital information was never received despite repeated requests, so on June 9, 2010, Senator Webb released a public statement calling on the DOD to finally adhere to the request:

    Three months ago in an Armed Services hearing, Army Surgeon General Schoomaker downplayed media reports of skyrocketing prescription drug use of those serving in the Army. I am still waiting to see existing data across services and a judgment of these findings.

    Webb’s statement went on to say:

    A reporting requirement has been added to the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the DOD to keep health records that detail the prescription and administration of psychotropic medications.

    There are many possible reasons why an avalanche of prescriptions are befalling our soldiers with no accountability even as those drugs kill. Financial gain by medical personnel of the DOD is one of the most serious allegations being examined and I will continue to follow this matter.

    Let us hope the powers that be do not continue to stall and downplay the seriousness of this issue.

    I shudder to think of how many more young, vibrant soldiers will die in their sleep in the meantime.

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    • Thank you for your research. I also have been very provoked to read of the military personnel having suffered death or life-wrecking changes from psychotropics. I have posted warnings on my social media account and shared it with colleagues of my son in the military. We also have a daughter with sensitivities to the psych meds who was almost killed in hospital by the use of additional meds that were contraindicated for the cocktail she was already taking. So, this topic really pushes my buttons.
      I consider there to be two sets of victims in the military. It was explained to me that the military takes pride in “pushing responsibility to the lowest level”. It occurs to me that if the civilian prescribers of meds are not recognizing symptoms of imminent death or delirium or whatever the case may be, then how could we expect the military medics to do any better. They have not been given the full story on the poisons , either. There is a true story on the internet of a military medic/psychologist who came home from war very troubled about all the suicides and he also eventually took his own life. That is so heartbreaking. These things are happening far too easily and too often.(Our government is supposed to protect citizens from harm. But the corporations and the bureaucracies are working together for profit. ) It sickens me as it sickened me to see my daughter in the hospital being assaulted with chemicals that took her to the door of death. There is something surreal about being a spectator to something that is so wrong and to feel so helpless in the power imbalance held by the so-called medical staff. There is a sense in which it made me feel defiled, to be there and not be able to stop it. I have a sense of shame for not risking to look like a fool to contact my senator, ANYBODY , once I had exhausted the local county authorities. I should have gone to the state much earlier than I did.
      I’m thinking about how to reach out to offices of veterans affairs with an approach that is professional and does the challenge justice. That’s not my area of experience so far. I’
      m sure that dealing with the military is a tightly controlled affair. The opportunities to spread the word are ripe for harvest. How to become or send the workers to the fields?
      Letter writing is one way to start.

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    • Seroquel even at very low doses can cause irregular heart rhythm, and unless this is identified before the tragedy, its unlikely to be identified after. To identify heart rhythm problems a doctor either has to catch them when they occur, or carefully interview a consumer, as the consumer could not make the connection.
      A lot of doctors might be reluctant, as side effect identification places them under pressure.

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  3. My son developed NMS on Olanzapine and the “experts” didn’t take any notice of it and didn’t check on him during the night. He had to run for his life because the psychiatrist refused to take him off the meds. He could have easily been one of those unexplained sudden deaths. Luckily he had the support of one of the nurses who helped him to escape.

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    • Alix, I can see that you , like many, have considerable first hand testimony of how your child has been poorly served. I encourage you to write your story if you have not done so already. May we all be empowered to write our own version of Uncle Tom’s Psych Ward, or our own section of the “Psychiatric Holocaust “Wall”. While that is what Mad In America has been doing all along, I ‘m just wondering what could be accomplished if we ALL did that, and had that story ready to distribute. I’m speaking to myself because I also have been writing quite a bit, but I haven’t yet found a way to condense our story , yet retain some very important points. I wish you well in your efforts to continue to speak out, exposing the abuse and reclaiming freedom and decency for all.

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  4. I’ve been subjected to involuntary ECT twice. Coulda died, and they’d blame it on something else (No, involuntary ECT is not legal here, I just happened to be poor and unwanted). I also survived, most miraculously, a massive Restoril (good ole Tempazepam) OD. I literally urinated in bed (yes, wet the bed, like a 5 year old or something) because of massive amounts of benzos.

    I guess I’m just saying…being a “mental patient” is rough as Hell, and lots of us don’t survive. At a certain point, the body gives out. Cardio abnormalities? Yes, well…neuroleptics will do that to you. Neurological abnormalities? Psychiatrists specialize in inducing those.

    Shrinks are rich; patients tend to be poor. Shrinks matter; patients don’t. Its the same ole song and dance, really. Shrinks invalidate (“diagnosis”) us, slow-motion kill us, then tell our life stories through DSM or ICD codes and their “professional opinions.”

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    • I hope while you still have time on this earth that you will make sure that you
      tell your story, one way or another, to your local reps. I recently realized that I had not spoken to my representatives. The Murphy Bill helped to get me talking to them. I’m still working on follow-up letters.

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  5. A Tamarac mother sued Fort Lauderdale Hospital and a psychiatrist who worked there, saying they overmedicated her teenage son with a cocktail of mental health drugs — some of which have not been approved for the treatment of children.

    The boy, Emilio Villamar, died of a sudden heart attack. He was 16.”

    Read more:

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  6. Austria, 2008, Otto-Wagner Spital (the very same hospital with great Nazi traditions in murdering people) – a 61 year old patient dies. Supposedly not restrained (who knows: they always fix the papers later) but in the net bed (a kind of a bed cage which they still use in Austria despite UN complaints). He died from heart problems. Supposedly no one could have noticed and it’s not the hospitals fault although they have to monitor the patients if they use these kind of measures. Government investigation shows no wrongdoing. Unsurprisingly, the same hospital had numerous affairs over the years (including accusation from former staff members) and absolutely nothing has changed and the doctors consistently deny any abuse or mistreatment. Oversight? Good joke.
    Psychiatry has a lot of bodies in its closet and its adding more daily.

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    • I hope he will tell his story to his local representatives. I’m wondering how I can get in touch with all the patients in our area who have had serious adverse events. I’m wondering how to find them and how to empower them to tell their stories.

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