When North Korea arrested and later sentenced the US national Otto Warmbier over his attempted theft of real property belong to the North Korean government, there was surprisingly little media attention.
It is widely thought that on his recent visit to Pyongyang, former professional basketball star and self-described friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Dennis Rodman helped to secure an early release of Warmbier, earlier this year.
It was at this time that it became clear that Warmbier’s health had deteriorated and that the US citizen was comatose. He died in a US hospital shortly after being flown out of North Korea.
North Korea has insisted that Warmbier was neither beaten, tortured nor malnourished and that DPRK media teams assisted Warmbier as his health deteriorated.
A recent coroner’s report conducted by Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco in the United States, concluded that there were no signs that Warmbier was beaten, tortured, suffered head trauma or was poisoned. These were various theories which circulated in US mainstream media when it became known that Wambier had lost consciousness while in prison.
According to Dr. Sammarco,
“The fact is that he had anoxic encephalopathy, or brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain; we don’t know what the root cause of that (lack of oxygen) is”.
Dr. Sammarco also sated,
“here is no evidence of trauma to the lower teeth or mandible on imaging or by physical examination. Now, that being said, I will tell you that the forensic dentist did let me know that the front incisors often will have a rounded root and they will sometimes twist as they’re developing, but I’m not an expert on that. But I can tell you that we didn’t see any evidence of trauma to the teeth”.
A further report on medical findings from US doctors, originally published in the Washington Post, shortly after Warmbier’s death,states:
“Rather, Daniel Kanter, medical director of the neuroscience intensive care unit at University of Cincinnati Medical Center said, the pattern of brain injury they see on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results appeared consistent with a cardiopulmonary arrest, with damage to brain tissue caused by lack of blood flow to the brain.
The doctors said they are not aware of anything from his previous medical history, prior to his time in North Korea, that might cause cardiopulmonary arrest. One of the more common causes of cardiopulmonary arrest is respiratory arrest, said Jordan Bonomo, neurointensivist and emergency medicine physician at UC Health. That cessation of breathing could be triggered by several things, including intoxication or a traumatic injury”.
The coroner’s report is therefore consistent with the original medical examination of Warmbier. This is also consistent with North Korean medical reports. Each source agrees that Warmbier suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain which was caused by apparent cardiac failure, but it is still not clear why Warmbier’s heart suffered an apparent breakdown.
The publication of the coroner’s report has led North Korea to blast Donald Trump for politicising Warmbier’s death as being due to North Korean negligence.
“North Korea has accused “old lunatic” Donald Trump of exploiting the death of US student Otto Warmbier. Warmbier was released in June after 17 months in North Korean custody and died in a US hospital a few days later.
Warmbier suffered no torture during his detention, said North Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman as cited by KCNA news agency. The spokesman insisted that Pyongyang had provided medical care to the US student despite his “hostile acts“.
Warmbier’s death led to the Trump administration forbidding US tourists from visiting North Korea, in spite of the fact that most tour groups to North Korea encounter no dangerous incidents in the DPRK.