Otto Warmbier: No autopsy for US student held by North Korea

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Media caption‘Punish N Korea for Otto Warmbier death’

The family of a US student who died shortly after being freed from North Korea have declined a post-mortem examination, according to a US coroner.

Otto Warmbier died on Monday near his family home in Ohio after more than 15 months in North Korean captivity.

The Hamilton County coroner said his family declined the autopsy therefore only an external exam was performed.

North Korea claims his coma was due to botulism and a sleeping pill, but the Warmbier family and doctors disagree.

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Mr Warmbier, 22, was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in March 2016 after being tried for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

The coroner’s office in Cincinnati, Ohio, said in a statement: “No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr Warmbier at this time of their tragic loss,” the statement from Dr Lakshmi Sammarco continues.

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Media captionDonald Trump says the US will ‘handle’ North Korea

Doctors at the Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was treated following his return to the US on 13 June, had determined that he suffered from “unresponsive wakefulness”, also known as persistent vegetative state, which occurred due to “severe neurological injury”.

A funeral is to take place on Thursday morning at the Wyoming High School in Ohio, which Mr Warmbier had attended before graduating and enrolling at the University of Virginia.

“All those that wish to join his family in celebrating his life are cordially invited,” the announcement states.

President Donald Trump said on Monday that a “lot of bad things happened” to Mr Warmbier at the hands of the “brutal regime”.

Timeline of events

  • 30 Dec 2015 – Mr Warmbier travels from Beijing to Pyongyang with a tour group
  • 2 Jan 2016 – He is arrested at Pyongyang International Airport as he tries to leave the country. Later that month, North Korea announces it is holding Mr Warmbier for a “hostile act”
  • 16 March 2016 – Mr Warmbier goes on trial in Pyongyang where he confesses to stealing a propaganda poster, and is sentenced to 15 years of hard labour. North Korea says he slipped into a coma shortly after his trial
  • Early June 2017 – US officials and Mr Warmbier’s parents are told about his condition
  • 13 June 2017 – He is released from North Korea and medically evacuated to the US. Doctors say he has suffered a severe brain injury
  • 19 June 2017 – Mr Warmbier dies

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