Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week after almost a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, his family said.
The 22-year-old “has completed his journey home,” relatives said in a statement. They did not cite a specific cause of death.
“Unfortunately, the awful, torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” his parents said.
Doctors had described his condition as a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and said he suffered a “severe neurological injury” of unknown cause.
His father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that he believed Otto had been fighting for months to stay alive to return to his family. The family said he looked uncomfortable and anguished after arriving June 13 but his countenance later changed.
“He was peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that,” they said.
Warmbier was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group and was convicted of subversion. He was put before North Korean officials and journalists for a televised “confession.”
“I have made the worst mistake of my life!” he exclaimed, choking up as he begged to be allowed to reunite with his parents and two younger siblings.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.
The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months. His family said it was told he had been a coma since soon after his March 2016 sentencing.
Doctors said he suffered extensive loss of brain tissue and “profound weakness and contraction” of his muscles, arms and legs. His eyes opened and blinked but without any sign that he understood verbal commands or his surroundings.
Unresponsive wakefulness is a new medical term for persistent vegetative state. Patients in this condition who have survived a coma can open their…