Secret crisis: Rue McClanahan suffered ‘debilitating illness’ before sudden death

On June 3, 2010, Emmy Award winner Rue McClanahan died of a stroke at New York–Presbyterian Hospital. She was 76, and despite the fact that her life was riddled with ailments and health crises, her sudden death remains a mystery until this day.

Now, forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Hunter is revealing his findings on REELZ’ new docuseries Autopsy: Rue McClanahan.

“So far I’ve discovered that Rue had undergone knee surgery which carries with it a risk of clotting, but she came out of the surgery without complications,” he says in a show teaser.

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Rue McClanahan
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THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'Mrs. George Devereaux' Episode 9 -- Aired 11/17/90 -- Pictured: (l-r) Betty White as Rose Nylund, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux (Photo by Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- Season 4 -- Pictured: Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
Actress Rue McClanahan and Muhammad Ali attend Night of 100 Stars Supper Party on May 5, 1990 at the New York Hilton Hotel in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Rue McClanahan attends the opening of 'Twelfth Night' on January 6, 1990 at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Rue McClanahan attends 42nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 16, 1990 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'Mrs. George Devereaux' Episode 9 -- Aired 11/17/90 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund, Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo (Photo by Ron Tom/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Betty White and Rue McClanahan (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Betty White and Rue McClanahan during Night of 100 Stars - May 5, 1990 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New york, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 18: Rue McClanahan (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
LOVE BOAT - A man organizes a marriage-a-thon cruise, with special prizes to be given to the couples found to be the most compatible, at the same time he cries to save his crumbling marriage. Doc tricks Gopher into taking his place as one of the judges, but comes to regret it when two attractive female judges constantly try to make time with Gopher. The single parents of one of the engaged couples come aboard with hopes of breaking up their kids, who they think are to young to be tying the knot. THe best man is Marv, the young man who befriended Julie when he was best man for another wedding on the Alaska cruise during 'The Promoter/The Judges/The Family Plan/Forever Engaged/May the Best Man Win' which aired on November 1, 1980. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TED KNIGHT;RUE MCCLANAHAN
LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1980: Actress Rue McClanahan poses for a portrait at home circa 1980 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Actresses Betty White and Rue McClanahan attend the premiere of 'Gorillas In The Mist' on September 19, 1988 at the Cineplex Odeon Cinema in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'Scared Straight' Episode 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- Season 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'The Competition' Episode 7 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 29: GOLDEN GIRLS - 1985 - 1992, RUE MCCLANAHAN, BEA ARTHUR, BETTY WHITE; ESTELLE GETTY (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/24/85- 9/24/92, RUE MCCLANAHAN, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/24/85- 9/24/92, RUE MCCLANAHAN, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/24/85- 9/24/92, RUE MCCLANAHAN, ESTELLE GETTY, BEA ARTHUR, BETTY WHITE, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 29: THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/14/85 - 9/14/92, 'The Golden Girls' is one of only three sitcoms in which all the main actors won at least one Emmy Award. Rue McClanahan (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, 1987); Estelle Getty (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, 1988); Bea Arthur (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, 1988) and Betty White (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, 1986), (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 16: THE GOLDEN GIRLS - 9/14/85 - 9/14/92, 'The Golden Girls' is one of only three sitcoms in which all the main actors won at least one Emmy Award. RUE MCCLANAHAN (Blanche) holds her Emmy won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1987)., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
355237 02: Actresses Rhu McClanahan and Estelle Getty stand together at the Comic Relief benefit November 14, 1987 in Los Angeles, CA. Comic Relief, founded by comedian Bob Zmuda, is an annual fundraising event featuring performances by many of America's best comics. (Photo by Barry King/Liaison)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'Letter to Gorbachev' Episode 6 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Edwin Newman as Himself, Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo, Betty White as Rose Nylund, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux (Photo by Gary Null/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actresses Betty White and Rue McClanahan attend the premiere of 'Gorillas In The Mist' on September 19, 1988 at the Cineplex Odeon Cinema in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- 'Scared Straight' Episode 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- Season 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Betty White as Rose Nylund -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
THE GOLDEN GIRLS -- Season 4 -- Pictured: Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux -- Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank
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Though it’s not uncommon for older women to suffer strokes, the Golden Girls actress was taking a powerful medication specifically designed to prevent blood clots.

Apart from that, she seemed healthy and in good spirits in the days leading up to her unexpected demise.

“From reports, she was working hard in the months before her death and appeared to be fit and well. However, the chance of having a stroke increases with age and affects women more than men. And I can see from reports that Rue may have been even more susceptible to a stroke as a result of a debilitating illness that overshadowed her whole life,” says Hunter.

Autopsy: Rue McClanahan airs Sunday February 17 at 8 ET / PT on REELZ.

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Celebrities who died in 2018
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Celebrities who died in 2018

Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 on August 16 following a long battle with cancer. Read more here.

(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died of an apparent suicide on June 8. Read more here.

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"Superman" actress Margot Kidder died at the age of 69 in May. Read more here.

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Burt Reynolds died at the age of 82 on September 6 after going into cardiac arrest. Read more here.

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Comic book legend Stan Lee died at the age of 95 in early November. Read more here.

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Designer Kate Spade died on June 5, 2018 by suicide. Read more here.

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DJ Avicii died at 28 on April 20. Read more here.

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Rapper Mac Miller died at the age of 26 on September 7 following an accidental drug overdose. Read more here.

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Joe Jackson died at the age of 89 at the end of June. Read more here.

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Kim Porter, Diddy's ex and the mother of three of his children, died suddenly in November at the age of 47. Read more here.

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The Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan died at 46 on January 15. Read more here

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"The Facts of Life" star Charlotte Rae died at the age of 92 in early August. Read more here.

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"Frasier" star John Mahoney died at 77 on February 4. Read more here.

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Actor Jerry Van Dyke died on January 5 at age 86. Read more here.

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Richard "Old Man" Harrison from "Pawn Stars died on June 25 at the age of 77. Read more here.

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Motorhead guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke died at 67 on January 10. Read more here.

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Original Mouseketeer Doreen Tracey died at 74 on January 10. Read more here.

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Bobby Zarin (left), husband of former "Real Housewives of New York" star Jill Zarin, died at 71 on January 13. Read more here.

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Actor Reg E. Cathey died at 59 in February. Read more here.

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TV star Nanette Fabray died at 97 on February 22. Read more here.

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Bollywood actress Sridevi Kapoor died in late February at 54. Read more here.

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Former child star Donna Butterworth died at 62 in March. Read more here.

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Frank Avruch (aka Bozo The Clown) died at 89 in March. Read more here.

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"Chicago Fire" actress Dushon Brown died at 49 on March 23. Read more here.

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K-Pop singer Seo Min-woo died on March 25 at 33. Read more here.

Actress Susan Anspach died in April at 75. Read more here.

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Kids' TV host Chuck McCann died at 83 on April 8. Read more here.

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"One Flew Over The Kuckoo's Nest" director Milos Forman died at 86 on April 13. Read more here.

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"Full Metal Jacket" actor R. Lee Ermey died at 74 on April 15. Read more here.

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"Night Court" actor Harry Anderson died at 65 on April 16. Read more here.

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Country musician and song-writer Randy Scruggs died at 64 on April 17. Read more here.

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"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" actress Pamela Gidley died at 52 in April. Read more here.

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Dennis Shields, "Real Housewives of New York" star Bethenny Frankel's on-and-off boyfriend, died of an overdose on August 10. Read more here.

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Longtime "Days of Our Lives" star Peggy McCay died at the age of 90 of natural causes in October. Read more here.

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"The Goldbergs" actor Jackson Odell died on June 8 at the age of 20. Read more here.

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LFO group member Devin Lima died in November at the age of 41 following a battle with cancer. Read more here.

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"Sons of Anarchy" actor Alan O'Neill died at the age of 47 in early June. Read more here.

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"Days of Our Lives" actor Frank Parker died at the end of September the age of 79 from complications of Parkinson's disease and dementia. Read more here.

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Hugh Dane, who played Hank the security guard on "The Office," died in June at the age of 75. Read more here.

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Jerry Maren, the last-living "Wizard of Oz" munchkin, died at the age of 98 in early June. Read more here.

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Founding member of The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir, died at the age of 70 at the beginning of July after a brief illness. Read more here.

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Former "ER" actress Vanessa Marquez was shot by police at the end of August. She was 49. Read more here.

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Jefferson Airplane founding member Marty Balin died at the end of September at the age of 76. Read more here.

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Dennis Hof, owner of Moonlite Bunny Ranch, died at the age of 72 in October. Read more here.

(Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

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