Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Report: Gay dermatologist
died of accidental overdose


Dr. Elias Michael(Photo: Steven Underhill)
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A popular gay San Francisco dermatologist whose death authorities had regarded as suspicious died of an accidental drug overdose, according to a recently completed report by the medical examiner's office.

Dr. Elias Michael, 47, was found dead April 7, 2013 in his apartment in the 2000 block of Vallejo Street, where he'd been living with his aunt.

The report, which the medical examiner's office made available last week, lists the cause of death as "acute" mixed drug intoxication. Alcohol, nitrate, hydrocodone, and alprazolam were found in his system, according to the file.

Police homicide investigators had initially been assigned to the case, but the medical examiner's office ultimately determined the death was an accident, the document shows.

Shortly after his death, friends and family recalled Michael for his generosity and spirit.

Marianne Arbeed, Michael's sister, said among the causes he'd supported were the fight against breast cancer and raising funds for Palestinian children who couldn't get medical treatment. He'd also extended his generosity to patients.

"If someone had a skin problem and couldn't afford to pay him, he wouldn't charge them," and he wouldn't take their money, said Arbeed in April.

Asked this week about the report, Arbeed declined to comment.

The file says that at about 7 a.m. the morning he died, Michael indicated to his aunt "that he was at a club." The club isn't named in the document, but a friend previously told the Bay Area Reporter that Michael had texted several friends to join him at the End Up club, 401 6th Street.

Michael eventually came back to his Pacific Heights neighborhood home with another man, but his aunt turned the other man away, the report says.

At about 11 a.m., Michael and a friend of his from New York who'd been staying with him for a few days went to brunch, "returning intoxicated several hours later," according to the file.

Later, the aunt "heard a verbal argument" occurring in Michael's bedroom, and sometime between 6 and 8 p.m. she heard a loud "thump" in the room, the report says. Michael "reportedly told her that he was alright when she asked," but she heard "two more 'thumps' minutes later."

While Michael's friend left the apartment for about 15 minutes, his aunt checked on him. He appeared to be asleep. After the friend came back, he went into the room he'd been sharing with Michael and wouldn't let Michael's aunt in when she asked if he was okay, according to the document. (The report refers to Michael's friend as "a very poor historian.")

However, the friend eventually came out and stated that Michael was dead. Paramedics tried to resuscitate Michael but pronounced him dead just after 10.

The medical examiner's report lists several bruises on Michael's body, including on his abdomen and legs, and says there was a bruise "and a depressed defect" on his forehead.

The file says Michael's family had "relayed a history of alcohol abuse and past recovery attempts." It also says, "There were multiple alcohol bottles" in Michael's room, but "no evidence" of "illicit drug use."

Alprazolam, better known as Xanax, had been prescribed for back spasms, according to the report, but the document doesn't specify to whom they'd been prescribed. It indicates about a week's worth of the drug should have been left, but none of the pills remained.

Six pills of hydrocodone, which can be used as a painkiller or cough suppressant, were found on Michael's floor, but abuse of the medication "was not discernable" at the scene, according to the file.

Other drugs were also found in Michael's system but the report doesn't indicate they were primary factors in his death.

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