Meningitis worsened by liver failure, probably from acetaminophen
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
By KATIE FAIRBANK / The Dallas Morning News
Socialite Shannon Murchison died of acute bacterial meningitis that spread throughout her system, according to a report released Monday by the Dallas County medical examiner’s office.
The meningitis was due to a strain of listeria, bacteria that can be found in food poisoning, investigators concluded. Her illness was compounded by liver failure probably caused by acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol and other medications.
“The liver failure was very dramatic,” said chief medical examiner Jeffrey Barnard. “It is likely that she took a pretty good amount of acetaminophen.”
The death was ruled accidental rather than natural due to the probable use of acetaminophen, Dr. Barnard said.
Mrs. Murchison, 47, the former wife of Clint Murchison III, was declared brain dead April 28 after a couple of days on life support. An autopsy was ordered in part because she had reported to police on April 19 that she had suffered a black eye and extensive bruising. The circumstances of her illness and death shocked many in Highland Park, raising questions among friends and fueling gossip.
Dr. Barnard said the bruising to Mrs. Murchison’s eye was a traumatic injury but that it “played no role in her death.” He said he could not determine what caused the injury.
Other bruising could have occurred because her blood clotting ability was impaired by her illness and liver failure, he said.
Mrs. Murchison’s sister, Waverly West Burford, said the black eye was the result of a fall “and that’s all there is to it.”
Friends say that Mrs. Murchison had been taking a large amount of Tylenol for headaches.
“Poor thing. It’s tragic,” Mrs. Burford said.