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Medical Examiner Releases a Cause of Death for Non-Binary Teen Nex Benedict

Nex Benedict is a non-binary teen. They have dark brown curly hair at chin length. They are wearing a black t-shirt and have their hands up in a peace sign.

Photo from them.com

*Content Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and violence against LGBTQ+ youth. Please consider your mental health when deciding when and how to proceed with reading this article.


A cause of death has been released for Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old trans-nonbinary student from Owasso High School. Benedict’s case received widespread coverage as they died following an altercation involving other students in the high school bathroom. Benedict’s family and friends claim that classmates habitually bullied Benedict for their gender identity.


The Medical Examiner’s Report

On Wednesday, March 13, The Advocate reported that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma released a one-page autopsy summary report identifying Benedict’s cause of death as combined toxicity from diphenhydramine and fluoxetine. Diphenhydramine is more commonly known by its brand name, Benadryl. It’s a widely accessible medication often used to treat allergy symptoms. Fluoxetine is also more widely known by its brand name, Prozac. Fluoxetine is a prescription-only medication used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.

In the summary report, the medical examiner ruled the manner of death as suicide. They announced that a full report will be released on March 27.


A Plea for Transparency

On Thursday, Benedict’s family responded to the report with a statement released through their lawyer. The family urged the public to continue calling for justice for Benedict despite the “classification” of death. They say that the complete report will reveal that the injuries Benedict sustained during the assault were physically significant.

The family’s statement includes direct quotes from the report they received, noting trauma to Nex’s head and neck, scalp hemorrhages, abrasions, as well as bruising on the torso and extremities. And, though the medical examiner claims these injuries did not cause Benedict’s heart to stop beating, those who attacked the teen must still be held accountable for their actions.

GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis also released a statement supporting Benedict’s family and calling for more information. “Nex’s family accurately notes how the report released this week does not reflect the full picture of what happened to Nex and continues to urge accountability of those who failed to keep Nex and all students in Oklahoma safe from bullying, harassment, assault, and most brutally, death,” she said in her statement.

Ellis’ statements amplify the doubts voiced by Benedict’s family and advocates who question the validity of the summary report. Earlier in the week, Ellis said, “There is nothing in this one-page document to explain why the medical examiner checked a box. Media must have learned by now that they need to continue to question what they get from law enforcement and government entities in Oklahoma that have so far failed to protect vulnerable students and responsibly provide any information that is critical for student safety.”

NPR points out that the summary report does not include the exact amounts of each medication in Benedict’s body at the time of death. Without clear transparency, some suspect the medical examiner’s classification of Benedict’s death could be an attempt to remove accountability from the school and from the police officers who originally discouraged Benedict’s family from filling out a report.


The Bigger Picture

In the weeks since Benedict’s death, their family and LGBTQ+ organizations have called for more education, resources, and care dedicated specifically to the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ youth in our schools. Benedict clearly wasn’t cared for, as GLAAD reports that Benedict told police they had endured the bullying for a year by the time they got involved on February 7. Critically, Benedict also told police that they didn’t believe the school would do anything to protect them, as the bullying had been reported to school staff in the past.

Benedict faced a world that discriminated against them as both an Indigenous and nonbinary person. According to The Trevor Project‘2 2023 research, over half of Indigenous LGBTQ+ young people (54%) reported seriously considering suicide in the past year, compared to 41% in the broader sample of LGBTQ+ young people. It’s imperative that we learn from the conversations happening around Benedict’s death.

It’s not a secret that LGBTQ+ youth are far more likely to face mental health challenges than their straight, cisgender peers. However, Benedict’s story sheds light on how LGBTQ+ youth with multiple minority identities encounter additional obstacles that can truly impact their well-being. These youth need targeted resources and intentional support that recognizes their struggles and meets them where they are.

In reading about the bullying Benedict endured at school (and the lack of action taken to end it), it’s all too easy to see how they might have felt invisible. Our youth deserve to be seen, to feel safe, and to be protected. We have to push for schools to create better environments for LGBTQ+ youth so we never again have to lose a child and wonder if their death should be attributed to a physical assault by their classmates or their own belief that this world is not one worth living in.


🚨If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal ideation, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.




Sondra Rose Marie
Sondra Rose Marie
Sondra Rose Marie Morris (she/her) is a memoirist, journalist, and entrepreneur. Her words covering mental health, racism, death, and sexuality can be found in ZORA, Human Parts, Dope Cause We Said, The Q26, and on Medium. As of 2024, Sondra is the owner and Editor in Chief for Tagg Magazine. Follow her adventures on Instagram @SondraWritesStuff or Twitter @sondrarosemarie.