2016 was the year of celebrity deaths; a time made infamous for the sheer number of famous people who expired before their time. George Michael, David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, and Ron Glass were just some of the stars who perished, but for anybody who takes science fiction and nerd culture seriously, (as I do) then the biggest loss of the year was the acclaimed Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher.
Fisher was one of those rare celebrities who was famous from birth, as she was already hounded by tabloids and paparazzi from an early age as the daughter of singer Debbie Reynolds (who passed away the day after her daughter). She became a geek icon forever in 1977, after staring as the galactic badass Princess Leia, but the actress had many other strings to her bow.
Fisher also appeared in movies such as The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally, Drop Dead Fred, and at one point was married to musician Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame. In addition to constantly touring the convention circuit, Fisher was also an accomplished writer and screenwriter in her own right. She was also a great diarist, and her memoirs were rightly featured on bestseller lists for months at a time.
Sadly, she passed away at the age of 60 on December 27 2016. After finishing the European leg of her book tour, Fisher was flying on a flight from London to Los Angeles, where she suffered a medical emergency around fifteen minutes before the plane landed. She was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre, but died after four days in intensive care. The exact circumstances around her untimely death were not known, but now a leaked coroner’s report has revealed all.
According to the coroner’s report, Fisher’s death came about as a result of complications caused by a condition known as sleep apnoea and other causes, including atherosclerotic heart disease, a condition where fats such as cholesterol build up within the body’s arterial walls. Sleep apnoea is a medical condition in which shallow breathing can cause serious respiratory failure in its sufferers. It affects approximately 1-6% of adults worldwide, and the effects can worsen with age.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office has also determined that “multiple drug intake” was also a factor in Fisher’s death. The actress had long struggled with an addiction to cocaine and later prescription medication, which she used to curtail the manic affects of her well-publicised bipolar disorder.
Discussing the report’s findings, Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd stated, “She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases. I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure.”
Fisher is set to star posthumously in the latest instalment of the Star Wars franchise: the last Jedi, and it is unknown how her death will affect the plot of subsequent movies.