Bruce Lee Cause of Death
For many people, particularly of a certain generation, Bruce Lee is kung fu. This is not only because he displayed its technique and represented its ethos on screen. He was a martial artist who melded physicality with philosophy in his short, but incredibly impactful life. Although kung fu is the martial art with which he is most associated, he studied many diciplines and even created his own martial art philosophy known as Jeet Kune Do. Although there is much we know about his life and experiences, there is also some controversy surrounding Bruce Lee, particularly his death.
Although we known Bruce Lee died on July 20th 1973, mystery still surrounds the circumstances of his death. This is why oneHOWTO explains Bruce Lee's cause of death by revealed when, where and how Bruce Lee died.
What happened the day of Bruce Lee's death?
Although there is controversy surrounding Bruce Lee cause of death, the circumstances are actually relatively well reported. We can see this in the last days of his life. Here we provide a breakdown of the circumstances just before Bruce Lee died:
- Bruce Lee began to have health problems two months before his death.
- On May 10, 1973, the martial artist passed out during one of the ADR sessions for the movie he was shooting at the time, Enter the Dragon.
- That same day he was taken to a hospital complaining of a severe headache and suffering from convulsions. Doctors linked these symptoms to cerebral edema, a disease in which excess fluid in the brain causes swelling and severe pain. At that time, he was immediately treated with the drug mannitol.
- After a short hospital stay, Bruce Lee felt better and was released. He immediately resumed his strict diet and regular physical exercise. He combined rice, vegetables, milk and fish, excluding baked goods, most sugars and refined flour. He did a lot of exercise, including the famous Dragon Flag exercise that became his trademark.
- During the time between this initial hospital visit and his death, it appeared that Lee had recovered from the cerebral edema and there were no indications he had sustained any long-term effects, bar a occasional headaches.
- The day of Bruce Lee's death was especially busy for him. He was in Hong Kong, the city in which many of his films were shot. He spent much of the day with producer Raymond Chow to discuss his next film.
- His closest entourage was aware of Lee's enthusiasm, acting in each scene with great energy despite the scorching summer heat. After the meeting, he went to the apartment of Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei, a friend who was later found to have been his mistress. They made plans to have dinner with Raymond Chow to finalize the film deal for their next movie project.
Last hours of Bruce Lee's life
Around 7:30 p.m., Lee complained of a headache. Ting Pei gave him a common pain reliever known as Equagesic which contains aspirin and meprobamate. The later is a tranquilizer and anti-anxiety medication. After taking the drug, Lee went to sleep. After a few hours, Ting Pei went up to Lee's room to see why he has not come to dinner. Seeing that he was unresponsive, she called Raymond Chow to try to revive Lee, but they were unsuccessful.
Chow and Ting Pei were forced to call a doctor, who tried to revive Bruce Lee for another 10 minutes. Failing to do so, he was rushed unconscious to a nearby hospital in an ambulance.
Bruce Lee cause of death
Bruce Lee's lifeless body showed no outward signs of injury. An autopsy was performed, the result of which revealed death from severe brain swelling. The buildup of fluid was so great it caused a 13% increase in the size of his brain.
Chow claimed Lee's death was due to an allergic reaction to the painkiller he was given, with the autopsy result partially corroborating this claim. Officially, the coroner ruled that Bruce Lee died after suffering another cerebral edema. The second was seemingly caused by the ingestion of Equagesic.
The same coroner described Lee's death as a ‘death by misadventure’. Unlike an accidental death, this qualification implied that the death was due to a voluntary and dangerous risk. As Equagesic was not normally considered to be dangerous, this may be a misleading ruling.
Different subsequent investigations have supported the report of the autopsy carried out by this coroner. They have not prevented the generation of many conspiracy theories around the death of Bruce Lee.
Bruce Lee cause of death conspiracies
Despite his passing being well reported and corroborated by two close witnesses, many do not believe the Bruce Lee cause of death was as described above. This could be due to Lee's almost mythical status as a martial artist. For someone who could tame the dragon, it might seem unlikely he could be felled by low dose of a relatively safe drug.
The conspiracy theories surrounding Lee's death include:
- Dim Mak: this is the fabled martial arts technique more commonly known as the ‘touch of death’. This is a mythical technique which involves using various pressure points to exert various types of damage, some of which can delay death. It is also related to the vibrating palm which supposedly uses spiritual energy to kill with a short punch. It is possible trauma to the chest area can cause cardiac arrest, but there is no evidence this is what killed Bruce Lee.
- Triads: a popular conspiracy is that Chinese organized crime gangs were upset with Lee for taking business away from their own film production interests. They claim Lee became too popular, so triad members beat him to death.
- Drugs: some claim that the prescription drugs were a cover for other drug addictions which Lee had kept hidden. One such story claims he was addicted to marijuana and died from a particularly strong strain, even though marijuana overdose is not technically possible. Some even claim his death was related to sexual stimulant drugs used due to his regular marital unfaithfulness.
- Japanese assassins: Lee was fiercely patriotic and there was still significant tension between the nations of China and Japan. Some claim Bruce Lee's cause of death was by ninja assassins who were sent to kill him as an example of national superiority.
Other rumors and conspiracy theories also exist, with some even claiming the area he lived provided bad feng shui and resulted in his death. As with other pop culture icons such as Elvis and Tupac, some claim Lee didn't even die at all. However, it is almost 50 years since the death of Bruce Lee and none of these conspiracy theories over his cause of death have sufficient evidence to claim them.
How old did Bruce Lee die?
Born on November 27, 1940, Bruce Lee died very young. He was barely 32 years old, but despite his early death he became a world reference and idol of martial arts and cinema. If he were still alive, he would be 81 years old (2022).
The curse of the Lee family is one of the great legends in the history of martial arts cinema. The only son of Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee , followed in his footsteps in the world of cinema. He also studied martial arts and was involved in action films.
Unfortunately, Brandon Lee also died very young at the age of 28 in 1993, 20 years after his father. His death was due to a freak accident during a film shoot. A prop gun that should not be loaded fired a bullet at him, hitting his abdomen. As with the death of his father, conspiracy theories arose even after the official declaration by the authorities of an accident as the cause of death.
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