The King: a medical tribute

First, let’s finally just agree that he’s actually gone, yes? No, OK, didn’t think so. But for argument’s sake, Elvis Presley checked out in 1977. There was a death certificate, and it called “cardiac arrhythmia” the cause. There were also toxicology reports, gently indicating some responsibility from the ten-drug cocktail coursing through his veins at the time. And indeed, to consider the thousands of pills—all prescription—that the King consumed in his final, graceless months is also to reluctantly consider Tom Cruise’s suggestion that the vitamins-and-exercise-only routine, sans the celebrity-wackjob aura, of course, might really be the way to go. At the very least, it may be prudent to review some “Medical Lessons Learned from the Death of Elvis Presley.” That’s next Wednesday evening’s installment of an ongoing lecture series at the Sierra Sacramento Valley Museum of Medical History, 5380 Elvas Avenue. Rick Paskowitz, a UC Davis clinical professor of obstetrics who studied and practiced medicine in Memphis during the good years, will give the talk. Lesson one, as Paskowitz would have it: Elvis’ demise “represents a model for the campaign against prescription drug abuse.” For support, Paskowitz will cite Charles C. Thompson II and James Cole’s 1991 book, The Death of Elvis: What Really Happened, which brought a decade’s worth of investigation to bear on the case and turned up no shortage of gory details. It helps that the King has enjoyed a long and stimulating pop-cultural afterlife. Clearly, though, and in many ways, his death has left us all shook up. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended to ensure adequate seating. Call (916) 452-2671 for more information.