The Hollywood Murder Case of Bruce Lee: Was It Really A Death By Misadventure?
Death by misadventure, this was how officials declared Bruce Lee’s death on July 20, 1973 in Hongkong. Bruce Lee was 32 years old when he died and was at the peak of his career as Hollywood’s most illustrious martial arts genius. But what lead to the misadventure of his death ? Was the dosage of aspirin he took for his headache enough to kill him ?
Bruce Lee’s untimely death fed a lot of speculations and theories around Hollywood. Some people say that Bruce Lee was murdered by a Hongkong triad. Rumors had it that Bruce Lee refused to pay protection money to the gangsters, hence, he was killed. Chinese actors paying protection money was very common at that time. However, in Bruce Lee’s death case, this rumor was never proven to be true.
Here is another speculation about the cause of Bruce Lee’s death. Black Belt Magazine wrote in 1985 that Bruce Lee may have died from a delayed reaction from a Dim Mak strike he received a few weeks before his collapse. Dim Mak is a deadly martial arts technique that attacks pressure points of the body and is known to incapacitate or even cause delayed death to the opponent. But again, like the previous speculation, there were not enough facts to prove that this caused Bruce Lee’s death.
About 2 months before his death, Bruce Lee collapsed in Golden Harvest Studios while dubbing for his movie Enter the Dragon on May 10, 1973. He suffered from seizures and headaches and was immediately rushed to the Hongkong Baptist Hospital. Doctors who attended to him diagnosed that Bruce Lee had a cerebral edema. Cerebral edema is an excess accumulation of water in the brain cells. At that time, doctors administered the drug mannitol to reduce the swelling in Bruce Lee’s brain. Within a few hours, Bruce Lee showed signs of recovery that doctors did not deem it necessary to have a surgery. A week later, Bruce Lee had a brain scan, an EEG, a brain flow study and a complete physical examination. Dr. David Reisbord concluded after the examination that Bruce Lee suffered a grand seizure of no known origin but was in an extraordinary good health overall. However, his family and friends were worried that Bruce Lee was rapidly losing weight.
Bruce Lee had no wish to live till his old age because he could not stand the idea of him losing his extreme physical capabilities that he gained through his hard work. This was according to Bruce Lee’s wife, Linda. He often said :
"If I should die tomorrow, I will have no regrets. I did what I wanted to do. You can't expect more from life."
True to his words, Bruce Lee died at a young age of 32 after falling into a coma on July 20, 1973. He was at the house of Taiwanese actress, Betty Ting, at the time of his death. It was reported that Bruce Lee complained of a headache while resting in Ting’s home. The actress gave him Equagesic, a pain killer that contains aspirin and muscle relaxant. Bruce Lee then proceeded to have a nap at around 7 :30 pm and never woke up again. He was discovered in coma by Raymond Chow who was there to fetch Bruce Lee for dinner.
The doctor who was called to the house tried to revive Bruce Lee for 10 minutes but failed. Later, Bruce Lee was later brought in an ambulance at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He was already dead on arrival.
The autopsy conducted on Bruce Lee’s body showed that there was no external injury. However, his brain had swollen considerably, from 1,400 to 1,575 grams. Medical experts ruled that the cause of death was cerebral edema. But what caused the cerebral edema was never explained. Dr. R.R. Lycette of Queen Elizabeth Hospital saw Bruce Lee’s death as a hypersensitivity to the compounds of the analgesic that he took earlier in the afternoon. Lee’s blood vessels were not blocked or broken which ruled out the possibility of internal hemorrhage. Bruce Lee’s internal organs were extensively examined by experts. The only foreign substance found was the Equagesic tablet that Lee took. To rule out foul play, R.D. Teare, a professor of forensic medicine at the University of London, was commissioned to examine Bruce Lee’s body. His examination later affirmed earlier medical reports that Bruce Lee’ death was caused by cerebral edema and hypersensitivity to aspirin. This conclusion led the authorities to officially declare Bruce Lee’s death as a Misadventure.
Experts have already spoken about the cause of the untimely demise of Bruce Lee. But many of Bruce Lee’s fans still believe that his was another Hollywood murder mystery. The fact however remains. It was unfortunate that Bruce Lee died because of his hypersensitivity to the aspirin in the painkiller he took. Yet, he got his wish to die in his prime.