This past Sunday, expert forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Hunter investigated the case of McClanahan’s death, nearly nine years after she suffered a fatal stroke at age 76, on Reelz’s docuseries Autopsy: Rue McClanahan.
During the episode, Dr. Hunter examined the late actress’ autopsy, which was performed almost a decade ago after she died while in New York Presbyterian Hospital.
“Rue had already suffered from a stroke seven months before her death, but her doctors had put her on Warfarin — a strong anti-coagulant medication to prevent another stroke,” Dr. Hunter explained to viewers. “So why did she have a second fatal stroke?”
While looking over her records, Dr. Hunter learned that McClanahan was a smoker, which increased her likelihood of suffering a stroke.
“I believe I now have the answer. Rue had two different kinds of strokes,” he said. “Her first stroke was an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot. This type of stroke accounts for 87 percent of strokes in the United States. So, it’s by far the most common kind.”
Said Dr. Hunter, “Rue was at high risk for this kind of stroke because she was female, over the age of 60, post-surgery and I’ve also discovered she was a smoker. This in itself would have made her six times more likely to have a stroke.”
Also on the docuseries, Dr. Hunter disclosed that “Rue was taking a powerful anticoagulant medication specifically designed to prevent blood clots.”
“Anxiety can cause dramatic spikes in blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause blood clotting, so could this have increased Rue’s chances of having a stroke?” said Dr. Hunter.
“So far I’ve discovered that Rue had undergone knee surgery, which carries with it a risk of clotting. But, she came out of the surgery without complications. From reports, she was working hard in the months before her death and appeared to be fit and well,” he shared.
“However, the chance of having a stroke increases with age and affects women more than men,” he continued, “and I can see from reports that Rue may have been even more susceptible to a stroke as a result of a debilitating illness that overshadowed her whole life.”
McClanahan starred on The Golden Girls, which put her on the map and led to fame and fortune, as beloved Blanche Devereaux from 1985-92.
Eighteen years after the sitcom went off the air, McClanahan “passed away at 1 a.m.” on June 3, 2010, her manager, Barbara Lawrence, told PEOPLE. “She had a massive stroke.” She had suffered a minor stroke earlier that year while recovering from bypass surgery.
Lawrence added that at the time of her death, McClanahan “had her family with her. She went in peace.”
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