Medical examiner: Ecstasy, pre-existing condition killed University of Iowa student Sean Wu

Family statement: 'This should in no way diminish his many achievements'

Sean H.Y. Wu obituary photo
Sean H.Y. Wu obituary photo

IOWA CITY — A University of Iowa freshman who died last month consumed the party drug Ecstasy, which aggravated his existing cardiological disease, according to the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Sean Wu, 18, died of drug intoxication and complications from Kawasaki disease, said Clayton Schuneman, administrative director for the medical examiner’s office. The drug was 3-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as MDMA or Ecstasy. The drug is taken recreationally to produce feelings of euphoria. Kawasaki disease is an illness that affects the blood vessels.

In a statement released Tuesday by the university, Wu’s family said Sean contracted Kawasaki disease when he was 6 years old and had been treated by a cardiologist since.

“His pre-existing condition was exacerbated by his tragic indiscretion (his first and only experience with “Ecstasy”) on April 8,” the family said in the statement. “This should in no way diminish his many achievements and the positive impact he had on many.”

Wu, a graduate of Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids and an honors student at UI, died after being found unresponsive in Daum Residence Hall.

UI police were called to the dorm at 10:44 p.m. and arrived three minutes later. Wu was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he died.

UI officials said a caller indicated Wu had been drinking earlier in the evening. Witnesses who were with Wu in the dorm said he tensed up, as if he was having a seizure, and collapsed.

Schuneman said he couldn’t comment further on the findings.


“I do know there are elements of this that are being investigated for criminal matters,” he said. “I don’t want to step on law enforcement’s toes.”

In a statement, UI officials said they do not have any additional information to make public, citing an ongoing investigation.

Wu was a member of the Bijou Horizons Committee on campus and a self-described “longtime champion of world cinema,” according to his online bio for the student-run organization. He was also on the pre-med study track, he said in his bio.

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