Initial reports called it “heart failure.” Some misunderstood and called it a heart attack. Then it was “complications from a pressure wound,” which gradually gave way to “blood infection.” One television anchorwoman tried to make a safe generalization that would not muddy the waters any further: “In the end,” she said, “his spinal cord injury was just too severe.”

A consensus gradually emerged that the cause of death was most likely sepsis, septic shock and organ failure