Disney Channel Star’s Tragedy Shines Light On Rare But Devastating Reality Of Epilepsy-Related Sleep Deaths
While an autopsy report is forthcoming, the most likely cause of his death was SUDEP, or sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. A severe seizure can temporarily shut down the brain, including the centers that control respiration, and if a person is sleeping and lying face down, death can occur, experts say.
The New York Times:
How Cameron Boyce’s Epilepsy May Have Caused His Death At 20
The actor Cameron Boyce, 20, who died on Saturday, had epilepsy, and his death was caused by a seizure that occurred during his sleep, his family said in a statement. Mr. Boyce starred in shows on the Disney Channel, including “Descendants” and “Jessie,” and appeared in a number of movies. “Cameron’s tragic passing was due to a seizure as a result of an ongoing medical condition, and that condition was epilepsy,” a Boyce family spokesperson told ABC News in a statement on Tuesday night. (Grady, 7/10)
Cameron Boyce's Death: How Seizures Can Kill People With Epilepsy
Most of these deaths occur during or after seizures, which can cause people to stop breathing and can trigger dangerous irregular heart rhythms. An estimated 3.4 million Americans have epilepsy, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and those with uncontrolled seizures are at higher risk for unexpected death. "What appears to happen most of the time is people just stop breathing at the end of the seizure, and they never start breathing again," said Dr. Jacqueline French, chief medical officer at the Epilepsy Foundation and a professor of neurology at NYU Langone Health. "Their respiratory drive just goes away and never comes back." (Azad, 7/11)
What Causes Epilepsy? Why Do People Have Seizures?
“It’s somewhat similar to SIDS in infants, where they aren’t sick with anything else at the time,” Henry told TODAY. Each year, more than one in 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP. Individuals who miss doses of medication, are sleep deprived or suffer from tonic-clonic seizures — the type that cause convulsions — are most at risk. (Abrahamson, 7/10)