Otto Warmbier, a young man who had been falsely imprisoned by the North Korean government and was in a coma after the torture he received while in their custody, died on Monday at the age of 22.
The University of Cincinnati Medical Center announced that Warmbier had died at 2:20 pm on Monday, just days after he was released from being held captive in North Korea, who returned him to the States in a coma after detaining him for 17 months.
BREAKING: 22-year-old Otto Warmbier, U.S. student released from North Korea last week, has passed away, his family says. pic.twitter.com/wnG5QKFKAz
— ABC News (@ABC) June 19, 2017
According to doctors, Warmbier suffered from a “severe neurological injury” and that he was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”
In a statement released by the hospital, family members said Warmbier had been unable to speak, see or react to verbal commands since his return to Cincinnati June 13.
“He looked very uncomfortable — almost anguished,” family members said. “Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.”
Family members thanked the hospital’s staff for the care they provided Warmbier but said ” the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds,” the family said. “But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched – Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two – that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.”
North Korea has said that Warmbier contracted botulism, a rare and potentially fatal illness poisoning caused by toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, and slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill shortly after his incarceration. However, something is apparently fishy about the claim.
University of Cincinnati hospital doctors determined that Warmbier likely suffered from extensive oxygen deprivation, quite possibly as a result of a cardiac event, according to NBC News.
“Patients who are in a persistent vegetative state after a cardiac arrest have a very low rate of recovery,” said Dr. Andrew Naidech, a neurocritical care physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Several doctors who were interviewed in the NBC piece offered several opinions no why they believe Warmbier died within a week of being returned home.
Among some of the opinions were:
- pulmonary embolism
- kidney failure
Warmbier’s father, who praised President Trump for getting his son home and blasted the Obama administration for not doing enough, also doesn’t believe botulism is responsible for his son’s illness or death.
“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” Warmbier’s parents said in a statement. “He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.”