Paul Reubens, the actor and comedian best known for his role as Pee-wee Herman, died of acute hypoxic respiratory failure, according to his death certificate.
A death certificate obtained by NBC News issued Sept. 8 said Reubens’ immediate cause of death was acute hypoxic respiratory failure. Acute respiratory failure occurs quickly when there’s either not enough oxygen or too much carbon dioxide in the body, according to the Cleveland Clinic, and with hypoxia, there are low oxygen levels in body tissues.
The certificate also listed a sequential underlying cause, acute myelogenous leukemia, which is “a cancer of the blood and bone marrow,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness,” a July 31 post to Reubens’ Facebook page said.
“Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit. A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit.”
Reubens’ death certificate also listed metastatic lung cancer, which occurs when cancer “spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body,” according to the National Cancer Institute, as another contributor to his death.
The Facebook post also included a prewritten statement from Reubens: “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years. I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”
According to Paul Reubens' death certificate, the beloved Pee-wee Herman actor battled two types of cancer and died from acute hypoxic respiratory failure. https://t.co/UpunmWcuZ1
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) September 11, 2023