Is winning the lottery hazardous to your health?

One winner's death is investigated after cyanide poisoning is detected. Researchers say that a bigger jackpot can lead to bankruptcy.

By Aimee Picchi Jan 8, 2013 2:06PM

Image: Lottery Tickets (Scott Speakes/Corbis/Corbis)Millions of Americans dream of striking it big with a lottery win, but those who claim prizes sometimes find the dream comes with a dark side. 

For one man, the lottery may have proved fatal. According to the Cook County, Ill., medical examiner's office, Urooj Khan -- who won $1 million last year from a scratch ticket -- died after ingesting a lethal amount of cyanide, reports CNN.

The ruling came after the medical examiner revisited the case at the urging of a relative. Earlier, the office had ruled Khan's death natural. 

The new finding "led us to issue an amended death certificate that (established) cyanide toxicity as the cause of death, and the manner of death as homicide," said chief medical examiner Steve Cina on Monday. 

No arrests have been made, although the Chicago police are investigating, according to the report. 

While the motives behind Khan's death may still be a mystery, it's clear that lottery jackpots don't always bring health and happiness.

An extra-large lottery prize carries a larger chance of going bankrupt, according to a paper published in 2010 from researchers at University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt University. The study tracked two groups of Florida Lottery winners: one that won less than $10,000 and a second group that won up to $150,000. 

The result? The big jackpot receivers were more likely to file for bankruptcy between three to five years after winning. 


Khan isn't the only lottery winner to lose his life after hitting it rich. Jeffrey Dampier, who with his wife won $20 million in 1996, helped out his family by buying houses and giving them jobs, according to Business Insider. But in 2005, Dampier's sister-in-law and her boyfriend kidnapped him and killed him. The pair received life sentences for their crimes.

In another case, Abraham Shakespeare of Florida was killed after winning a $31 million lottery jackpot. In December, a friend was convicted of killing him and was sentenced to life in prison without parole, with the judge citing money as the motive for the crime.

For Khan, the jackpot was going to help him pay down his mortgage, pay off bills, invest in his dry cleaning business and donate to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He never got to pick up a check of about $425,000, which was issued on July 19, according to WGNtv.

Instead, Khan went to work on July 20, ate dinner, went to bed, and woke up that night screaming in pain, one report notes. Khan was taken to an Evanston hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Mar 26, 2013 3:32PM

The lottery curse.  Is it real or a myth.   I've read stories of people who won it big and squandered it all.   One man in Texas (very religious) ended up divorced,  squandered all he had and then committed suicide.  Another man in Arizona won 8 million.  He couldn't say no to his children.  His daughter died of overdose.  Big money is not the problem.  The problem is how you chose to live your life after the windfall.  Professional athletes also fall into big money problems. 

I myself occasionally purchase lottery tickets.   I know full well the odds are way too high.  But a chance at a dream is still a chance.   Myself  I'd just keep my mouth shut and secure the money.  No frivolous spending just finical security. Retire comfortably and help my children (but not too much). 

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