The thrash icon passed away last week aged 49 after having been sidelined in 2011 when he contracted “flesh-eating” disease necrotising fasciitis.
But a medical expert has said it’s more likely his drink-related illness caused the attack, rather than the spider bite explanation that had been in circulation since Hanneman was forced off the road.
Slayer say in a statement: “We’ve just learned that the official cause of Jeff’s death was alcohol-related cirrhosis.
“While he had his health struggles over the years, including the infection that devastated his well-being, Jeff and those close to him were not aware of the true extent of his liver condition until the last days of his life.
“Contrary to some reports, Jeff was not on a transplant list at the time of his passing, or at any time prior to that. In fact, by all accounts, it appeared that he had been improving – he was excited and looking forward to working on a new record.”
Medical expert Dr Kent Sepkowitz has discussed Hanneman’s health issues in a Daily Beast article, arguing that the drama of the spider-bite story has detracted attention from the more common problem of liver damage.
Sepkowitz writes: “Despite the tidiness of the narrative suggesting that the old necrotising fasciitis caused the new liver failure, the story is exactly the opposite: people with severe underlying medical problems, such as chronic liver disease, are at increased risk for necrotising fasciitis.
“So rather than the 2011 illness influencing his death, it is more likely that the very illness that killed him – liver failure – was the same condition that predisposed him to the near-death experience two years ago.”
The expert believes that, in the same way Hanneman’s preference for heavy music meant many people were never exposed to his artistic genius, the spider-bite drama means not enough people will consider liver health issues. “His death has become a reconsideration of the extremely rare infection rather than of the common, preventable and treatable condition that did,” Sepkowitz notes.
Meanwhile, Slayer’s Kerry King and Tom Araya have confirmed they’re planning a public memorial for their late colleague. It’s due to take place before the end of the month and the band will announce details in due course.
Frontman Araya says: “Jeff was a lifeline of Slayer. He wrote so many of the songs that the band will always be known for. He had a good heart; he was a good guy.”
Drummer Dave Lombardo, who was dropped earlier this year after a contractual dispute, paid his own tribute last week, saying: “I’m deeply saddened, shocked and speechless. It’s difficult for me to write my feelings at this moment. My heart goes out to Kathy Hanneman.”