After using a herbal cure promoted for weight loss and diabetes, the congressman's wife passed away.
According to a coroner's report, Lori McClintock, the wife of Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., passed away from dehydration as a result of gastroenteritis brought on by white mulberry leaf.
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. KHN has uncovered that the wife of a congressman from Northern California passed away late last year after consuming a plant that is typically seen as safe and is used as a herbal cure for several conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol.
The Sacramento County coroner's report, which is dated March 10 but was not immediately made public, states that Lori McClintock, the wife of U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, died from dehydration due to gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines, that was brought on by "adverse effects of white mulberry leaf ingestion." Along with the autopsy report and an updated death certificate with the new cause of death, KHN acquired that report in July.
Her death was classified as an accident by the coroner's office. The cause of death was indicated as "pending" on the initial death certificate, which was dated Dec. 20, 2021.
According to the coroner's findings, Tom McClintock, a Republican who represents a district that crosses many counties in northern and central California, discovered his 61-year-old wife comatose at their Elk Grove, California, home on December 15, 2021. He had just come back from Washington, D.C., where he had spent the previous night voting in Congress.
According to the autopsy report, a "mostly intact" white mulberry leaf was discovered in Lori McClintock's stomach, though it is unknown if she consumed fresh, dried, or supplemented white mulberry leaves or drank tea made with them.
McClintock's passing highlights the dangers associated with the enormous, expanding market for dietary supplements and herbal remedies, which has grown to be a $54 billion industry in the United States. Both lawmakers and health care experts agree that this industry requires more government oversight.
"Many individuals believe that if a product is marketed in the United States of America, it has undergone some sort of inspection and is therefore safe. When introducing legislation to tighten control over dietary supplements this spring, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) declared on the Senate floor, "Unfortunately, that's not always true.
If McClintock's death was connected to a supplement, Daniel Fabricant, CEO, and president of the Natural Products Association, which represents the dietary supplement industry, questioned.
"It's entirely conjectural. This is based on science. Fabricant, who managed nutritional supplements at the FDA during the Obama administration, said that it wasn't only about how a coroner felt. "Unfortunately, people pass away from dehydration every day, and there are many different causes and many various reasons for this."
Fabricant claimed that for the FDA to initiate an investigation, it would have been ideal if the coroner or the family had informed the organization of her death.
It's unclear whether anyone informed the organization of her death since such reports are voluntary. FDA spokeswoman Courtney Rhodes stated that the organization doesn't comment on potential or existing investigations.
Fabricant noted that the FDA has a system in place to look at fatalities that may be related to a supplement or medication. It is casework, he declared. "We need to perform some good, old-fashioned police work,"
Since he made the announcement of his wife's passing in a statement on December 19, 2021, and paid respect to her during her funeral on January 4, Tom McClintock has largely kept quiet about it. The cause of death hadn't been disclosed up until this point.
Tom McClintock was unavailable for comment when contacted by phone and email several times on Wednesday.
McClintock assured mourners at his wife's burial that she was alright when he spoke to her the day before he left. He said that she had revealed to a friend that "she was on a roll" at her new position at a Sacramento real estate office and "she was meticulously dieting."
He said, "She just joined a gym. It would have been the happiest family Christmas ever if she had been at home counting down the days before Christmas, wrapping all the presents, and making all the preparations.
But the coroner's report states that she "complained of an unsettled stomach" the day before she passed away.
The law forbids the coroner's office from sharing many specifics of individual cases, according to Kim Nava, a spokeswoman for Sacramento County, who was responding to an email on Wednesday. The agency "attempts to locate and study medical records and speak to family/witnesses to establish circumstances leading up to and around a death," she added. This is done as part of any death investigation.
According to Nava, information from the person's medical records or any prescriptions or supplements discovered at the scene are given on to the pathologist to help determine the cause of death.
"The office may not disclose to a third party without a court order any information obtained from medical records," she stated.
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