UPDATED — Kathy Shaidle, Boyzone's Stephen Gately may have died of obstructive sleep apnea

by CynthiaYockey on October 16, 2009

I respect Kathy Shaidle’s war against creeping Sharia and Islamofascism and her war in support of free speech. However, I’m not a fan of her war against homosexual equality, which she prosecutes by stigmatizing homosexuals at every possible opportunity. She is very much against punishing thought crimes and speech crimes, but has no qualm about punishing in every way possible the BEING crime of homosexuality, which she has equated, via past linkage that I didn’t bother to keep, to being on a par with being a murderer. By this standard, regardless of how virtuously you lead your life, if you commit the being crime of homosexuality, you are just as bad as a murderer.

Also, no one, under that withering and all-encompassing barrage of condemnation, ever decides to cast their ethics and morals aside since they might as well be hanged for a sheep as NOTHING AT ALL. So the hope-killing, soul-killing, conscience-killing condemnation is not what is responsible for any moral and ethical lapses in the homosexual community at all, according to this line of reasoning — it is the intrinsically bad badness of the bad homosexuals.

So, the evidence Ms. Shaidle offers up today of the intrinsic badness of homosexuality is the sudden and unexplained death of 33-year-old Stephen Gately of the Irish boy band, Boyzone. Gately smoked some marijuana, then fell asleep on a couch and never woke up. He and his civil-union-husband had gone to a nightclub that evening and returned with a man they picked up. Apparently Gately was too sleepy for a three-some, so the two other men let him sleep and continued with the evening’s plan of sex.

Since one of the standard jokes of sitcoms is the straight man’s dream of three-somes, I don’t see straight people really being able to condemn the three-way angle of this story. Ditto the drugs.

Here’s the thing.

Healthy 33-year-olds who have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea really can take a normal amount of a sedating drug — alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, or whatever — and die of the combination of length of an apneic episode complicated by the sedating action of the drug making it impossible for the brain to send a strong enough signal, or a signal that the body can respond to, in order for the body to wake up and open the collapsed airway. There is a feedback mechanism the brain monitors between the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood and when the oxygen gets too low, the brain stops sending the signal to breathe. This is how the brain knows how to allow the body to die.

I almost died this way from one Percocet that I took for some of the worst pain of my life and before falling asleep on the couch. If I hadn’t had six cups of coffee that day, I might have died. I woke up gasping and diaphoretic with a thready pulse I could barely feel and I barfed my guts out — these are all symptoms of cardiac distress. I had to call 911 and I spent three days in the hospital taking heart tests and getting an angiogram, just in case you need that as a measure of “almost died.”

Here’s another thing. I do not think there are currently any post-mortem tests to determine in an autopsy whether someone died of obstructive sleep apnea — although I bet the results of Gately’s autopsy of pulmonary edema would be consistent with trying to breathe against the vacuum of a collapsed airway for several minutes, if the medical examiner thought about it.

And a reminder — Billy Mays died in his sleep for no apparent reason with a normal amount of sedating prescription drugs in his system that autopsy results and pill counts showed he was taking as prescribed. I said at the time I thought sleep apnea took him, too. I still do.

Update, 10/17/09: I don’t think I made it clear how sudden death due to obstructive sleep apnea works — Gately’s husband did not neglect him:

  1. An apparently healthy person, let’s call him Stephen, with undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea, gets extremely tired due to travel, work or play.
  2. Stephen takes a normal amount of any kind of sedating chemical: wine or alcohol, prescribed painkillers or anxiety medication, or a recreational drug like marijuana.
  3. Stephen feels overwhelmingly sleepy and falls asleep.
  4. During sleep, Stephen’s airway collapses repeatedly due to the undiagnosed sleep apnea and the amount of oxygen in Stephen’s bloodstream falls.
  5. The reduced blood oxygen levels make Stephen progressively weaker and the sedating effect of the drug he has taken, even though it is a normal dose, reduces the ability of his brain to send the signals to his body to wake up and open his airway. It is not long before the feedback to the brain between the oxygen and cardon dioxide levels get so out of whack that the brain stops sending the signal to breathe.
  6. Showing absolutely no sign of distress at all, Stephen dies.

Now, at the beginning of this sequence, Stephen is only sleepy. In fact, this can happen without drugs being involved at all — that’s how my friend Patrick died last year, four months after I told him he really needed a sleep study that he never got. Absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary. Stephen is not in any distress at all. Absolutely the ONLY way to be able to predict that his life is in danger under these circumstances is to KNOW that he has obstructive sleep apnea and must NEVER fall asleep without using his CPAP machine.

So what I’m really telling you if that if you know you snore and you wake up and don’t feel energetic and refreshed in the morning after a full night’s sleep, or you have frequent day-time sleepiness, and you don’t see a sleep specialist to see if obstructive sleep apnea is causing those problems, you could wake up dead. Or, if you have a loved one whose breathing during sleep is a sequence of silences (apneas) and snores, or raspy breathing (hypopneas) and normal breathing, you stand a good chance of waking up one morning next to their dead body.

Update, 10/18/09: Welcome, gentle readers from Little Miss Attila! Joy — rest is the basis of activity — everything depends on good sleep!

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Beth October 16, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Howdy. Didn’t see an email address on your site. Just wanted to say hi to a fellow conservative lesbian. I was at the huge tea party in DC but didn’t make it down to the Equality March. I know what you mean about how in the world do you get the two groups to speak the same language so they can understand each other. Anyway. Check out my blog, email me if you like.
.-= Beth´s last blog ..Debate =-.

Linda F October 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I didn’t know this, but thank you. I have a son with sleep problems, and I’ve been trying to get him to see a doctor about it. This just gives me extra ammo for my nagging.
.-= Linda F´s last blog ..Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad…SC? =-.

Cynthia Yockey October 16, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Linda F,

I gather your son is an adult — if he visits your home and takes a nap, get his permission to video him for half an hour. The silences are when the throat has collapsed and no air is getting through, although the brain is still sending the signals to breathe so you see the chest rising and falling. When the blood oxygen level falls enough, the brain sends a sharp signal to wake up — which causes the explosive snore as the airway opens.

Getting a sleep disorder diagnosed and treated results in greater joy, greater energy and vitality, more creativity and easier weight loss.

Good luck!


Attmay October 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm

The fact that he and his husband brought in a third man for a ménage à trois sickens me. And his husband was having sex with the third man as he was dying.

This just feeds into the Religious Wrong’s attacks on gay marriage by saying they won’t be monogamous, and they’ll use this as an example by which to judge all potential gay marriages. Of course, there are heterosexuals who have “open marriages”, too, and every behavior condemned in gays by the Religious Wrong occurs in the heterosexual population.

Unless the Daily Mail doesn’t have its facts, um, straight.

You know the old saying, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Well, in the real world people aren’t cows and milk isn’t free. Even if they were, if you owned your own cow you could guarantee the quality of the milk.

Cynthia Yockey October 16, 2009 at 11:36 pm


I’m not inclined to condemn them for the three-way, but perhaps that’s because I’ve seen every episode of “Queer as Folk” uncut, so to speak. Or because my perception is that male sexuality is very different from female sexuality and men open their pants much more easily than they open their hearts. I’m not inclined to condemn them for it — it probably helps that I don’t have to put up with any of the ramifications of it, either.

I do feel certain that both men would have rushed to Gately’s aid if they had known he was having the slightest difficulty. My heart breaks imagining his husband’s horror when he found Gately dead. Who thinks a fit 33-year-old will go to sleep and never wake up? Who sees that coming?

Most people have no idea at all what is happening in the body when they hear a sleeper’s silences and snorers. People get mocked for snoring because hardly anyone realizes that the snoring person is at one point or other of a death spiral. But I know and that’s why I harp on this subject.

I don’t accept that anyone can rationally refuse homosexuals marriage equality with the argument that we would not be sufficiently monogamous. All we want to do is make the same vows opposite-sex couples do and keep them as best we can the same way opposite-sex couples do. With at least half of all straight marriages ending in divorce, I really don’t see straight people being in a position to criticize. Plus, there is the matter of marital infidelity by politicians who held themselves up as examples of family values being rather a glut on the market these days — some humility on the subject seems more in order.

I have no idea where you were going with the cow/milk metaphor.


Amy October 17, 2009 at 1:04 am

I’ve totally had threesomes…BOTH ways. So I clearly suck as an example of whatever it is we are trying to make an example of.

And while it is true that no one died, I don’t get the cow/milk thing either.

Attmay October 17, 2009 at 9:59 am

Cynthia and Amy,

The cow/milk metaphor is an oft-used cliché used as an excuse by those who don’t want to settle down to monogamous relationships, the “milk” meaning sexual activity. I think monogamy should be expected of same-sex marriages, as it is expected of heterosexual ones as well.

I am a man and I do have to live with the ramifications of a gay male sexual culture that tolerates these things. Those like myself who view the sex act as an expression of love are not as visible, and are often viewed with scorn and bemusement by other gays.

Cynthia Yockey October 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm


I know what the cow/milk metaphor means, I just couldn’t see how she intended it.

Regarding monogamy, I believe same-sex couples want monogamy as much as heterosexual couples do and that we achieve the ideal about as well as they do, so it’s just nuts to oppose same-sex marriage with the argument that we would not be faithful enough.

I think a generation or two of equality for homosexuals, including marriage equality, is going to change gay male sexual culture dramatically for the better in favor of married same-sex couples who succeed in staying married until death parts them. The ability to marry shapes the lives of heterosexuals far more than they are aware because that is the air they breathe and they take it for granted. But the ability to marry — and the objective of marriage — generates thousands of wholesome life choices in the direction of virtue, getting an education, working to succeed in a career, choosing a home*, making friends, developing spiritual values and more. Likewise, the people who oppose equality for homosexuals, including marriage equality, possibly with the best of intentions, are destroying the lives of homosexuals with a death of a thousand cuts by denying us the objective that leads to all those positive decisions.

Meanwhile, Attmay, the book that is advertised here, “How to get lots of money for anything fast,” has an unadvertised bonus on attracting your ideal partner, whether in romance or in business. The advice is sound — I realized after reading it that that’s how I found Margaret. If you are single the man you are looking for may be rare, but you have the ability to find him and make a happy life together.


*I was a Realtor from 1997-2004, although not a successful one because my sleep apnea was so advanced then, and I was startled to learn that the criterion that has the most to do with the value of any home is the desirability of its school district, in particular the high school that all the elementary and middle schools feed to. One of the reasons that homosexual equality benefits society is that as a minority, only 20 percent of us have children and therefore choose a home by school district. Quite a large number of the rest of us are exceptionally good at moving into depressed, diverse neighborhoods, fixing up the properties and establishing thriving businesses. We are the urban pioneers who make blasted neighborhoods bloom again — property values go up and the schools get better.

Stinky October 17, 2009 at 11:28 am

I agree, the “cow” metaphor was very confusing, but what I think Atmay MAY be saying is that monogamy is a good thing, regardless of the sex of the partners.

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