Beethoven has always been known for his musical achievements, but there has also always been an interest in his somewhat mysterious and untimely death. This interest has grown in the last few years with the emergance of DNA testing and new forensic technology. A few years back, it was determined that the cause of the legend’s death was due to lead poisoning. Now, a Viennese pathologist takes this theory a step further by claiming that his physician accidently caused him to overdose on the toxic substance in an attempt to cure the ailing composer.

Beethoven died in 1827, though he had been deathly ill many years before his demise at the age of 57. Since the discovery of lead was detected in samples of Beethoven’s hair, Christian Reiter has been working to find more detailed evidence through advanced forensic techniques. His findings were recently published in the Beethoven Journal which shows that the lead concentrations in his body spiked every time he saw his physician, Andreas Wawruch, in the last months in his life. The lead only worsened the composer’s already weakened liver which lead to his death.

The condition of his liver had already been known since an autopsy was performed on his body in March 1827 which showed that he suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and edemas of the abdomen. To treat his abdominal pains, Wawruch would puncture the abdominal cavity and seal the wound with a lead-laced poultice. The amount of lead in the poultice would not be considered lethal for a normally healthy person, but on top of his other ailments, it was deadly. The composer was also treated with lead to help ease the pneumonia that he had developed shortly before his death as well. He was also said to have grunk lead-laced wine and possibly water from a spa that contained lead, which could have caused lead poisioning before he was even treated by a doctor. In the end, it came down to failing health and ignorant medical practices which killed this great legend.

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