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When did Anne Heche die? This sentence creates a lot of confusion for readers and creates an unrealistic tone

Anne Heche’s death was carried by different news outlets on Friday.



Some in the media have rethought their definition of “dead” and whether or not an obituary should be published while a subject is on life support after the wave of reports that followed Anne Heche’s death on Friday morning and continued through Sunday evening.

On August 5, Heche crashed her Mini Cooper into a house in Los Angeles, causing the car to burst into flames and severely injuring her. Heche was taken to the hospital in critical condition, and it took fifty-nine firefighters over an hour to put out the fire.

Heche’s death was first reported by TMZ at around 11 a.m. on Friday. The celebrity news website claimed her representative was responsible for her death in the obituary. According to TMZ, Anne’s representative said, “Brain dead” is the legal definition of death in California.

When a person’s heart stops beating or their brain stops functioning, they are considered legally dead in the state of California. However, as in the case of Heche, who hoped to be an organ donor, modern medical technology can keep the heart beating and the lungs functioning.

Traditionally, most major news organizations like the Los Angeles Times have waited until life support has been disconnected before declaring a person “dead” and publishing the obituary. However, the media’s reaction to Heche demonstrated a growing schism in perspectives.


Following the TMZ report, People magazine reported, “Emmy Award-winning actress Anne Heche has died,” later adding, “The family’s rep confirms to People that, while Heche is legally dead according to California law, her heart is still beating and she has not been taken off life support to allow OneLegacy Foundation enough time to find recipients who will be a match.”

In contrast to the Guardian and other publications, the L.A. Times initially refrained from using the word “dead” to describe Heche. The Times reported that despite her being brain dead, Heche had her life support kept on so that her organs could be donated. The Times waited until Heche’s eldest son, Homer Laffoon, confirmed her death to the media outlet; after the obituary was written, the family released a statement confirming her passing.

After Heche’s life support was turned off, the New York Times published an obituary on Sunday. The Washington Post informed readers of Heche’s passing via push notification on Sunday evening.

A New York Times representative said in an email on Monday, “We reported on the news developments as they happened, but out of respect for the family, we held off on publishing a formal obituary until her death was officially confirmed.”

It was unsettling, but not unprecedented, that different media outlets on different continents broke the news of Heche’s death at different times over the course of the weekend.


Tom Petty’s cardiac arrest at his Malibu home in 2017 caused widespread confusion as to whether or not he had died. Upon arriving at UCLA Medical Center in the early hours of an October morning, Petty was placed on life support. Thankfully, the EMTs who rushed to his home had been able to detect a pulse.

The attempts to revive Petty were unsuccessful. At the time of his arrival at the hospital, he reportedly had no brain activity, per TMZ. According to a statement released by Petty’s family, he “died peacefully” at 8:40 p.m. on Monday. This comes after multiple publications, including Rolling Stone and Variety, reported earlier in the day that Petty had died, only to later retract or update their reports. The “American Girl” singer had been reported as dead, hospitalized, “clinging to life,” or “fighting for his life” for several hours.

Actress Natasha Richardson was kept alive for two days after being declared brain dead following a fall on the ski slopes in Quebec in March 2009. After Liam Neeson’s orders, Richardson was flown from Quebec back to New York, hospitalized, and eventually had her life support turned off so that she could be surrounded by her family.

It’s true that Richardson’s organs were transplanted. “At the moment, she is responsible for three people’s survival. It’s wonderful, and I know she’d be overjoyed by it “In 2014, Neeson commented to CNN.

The Los Angeles Times was the first publication to cover this story.