Anne Heche’s cause of death: new details revealed by autopsy

The actor died this summer

The cause of death of actor Anne Heche has been disclosed via new details in her autopsy.

The Donnie Brasco star died in a car crash in August, which left her critically injured before she lost consciousness three days after the accident.

A Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner report obtained by E! News revealed traces of cocaine, cannabinoids (a substance found in cannabis plants) and benzodiazepines (a depressant) in Heche’s system when she was admitted to hospital.


The coroner’s spokesperson added that there was “no evidence of impairment by illicit substances” at the time of Heche’s car crash.

The cannabinoids were found in Heche’s urine but not in her blood sample, which the coroner said was “consistent with prior use but not at the time of injury”.

Fentanyl was also found in Heche’s system after she was hospitalised and underwent a urine test, but the coroner noted that the amount found was “consistent with therapeutic use”.

Anne Heche at the premiere of 'The Tender Bar'
Anne Heche at the premiere of ‘The Tender Bar’. CREDIT: Getty / Leon Bennett / Stringer

Heche is said to have died of inhalation and thermal injuries from the crash, following a sternal fracture due to blunt trauma. The inhalation injuries caused “changes to the respiratory system that decreases the intake of oxygen needed to sustain life,” according to the new report.

“Anoxic brain injury (despite the name) is not the result of physical trauma to the body but is an injury due to lack of oxygen,” the coroner wrote. “The sternal fracture she sustained is expected to be painful while breathing when she was in her vehicle, further complicating oxygenation and therefore also significantly contributed to death.”


“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” her family and friends said in a statement. “Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”

At the time of Anne Heche’s death, a representative wrote: “Anne had a huge heart and touched everyone she met with her generous spirit.

“More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work — especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love. She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light.”

Anne Heche is survived by her two children.

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