Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s exact cause of death will never be known. It might have just been a desire for privacy, but when Scalia’s family decided not to have an autopsy done on the controversial political figure, they inherently invited countless questions and conspiracy theories. While it might be more entertaining to talk about the Illuminati-esque hunting group retreat he was a part of at the time of his death, it’s probably more reasonable to consider a condition he was known to have had: sleep apnea.
According to The Washington Post, when Scalia was found dead in his bed on Feb. 13 in the Texas hunting lodge hotel room, everything was in neat order, as those who knew the Justice would expect. Everything, that is, except for the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine that was sitting on his nightstand off and unplugged.
Law enforcement officials have assured everyone they can get to listen that there was no evidence of foul play or suspicious activity. As a result, the situation has now led many to assume that his death could have been the result of something as simple as forgetting to turn on the device to help him breathe at night.
CPAP machines are used by millions of people across the country who suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder that temporarily stops a person’s breathing while they slumber. This pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last for a couple of quick seconds to many minutes, sometimes even resulting in death.
While these devices should be used regularly, similar to a medication, it’s not typically thought of as a fatal mistake to skip a night of use. As The Washington Post piece points out, most experts agree that you can get away with skipping a night of sleep without it and only result in snoring and waking up gasping for breath. But then again, sometimes it only takes one night of forgetting to wear the CPAP mask for tragedy to strike.
What really happened that fateful night will probably be another unsolved mystery for people to speculate on. Scalia’s doctors have since said publicly that the Justice’s health had been failing for years; the Supreme Court justice was known to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Yet it could be that one miscue in a sleep routine is all that it took to put a man who built much of his life by following a strict routine to rest for good.