TLC’s hit reality series My 600-lb Life documents the life-saving surgery and subsequent weight loss journey that patients who are 600 pounds or heavier go through to lose weight and get their health back on track.
Dozens of obese patients have appeared on the show and relocated to Houston to seek out the help of celebrity bariatric surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan, most commonly known as Dr. Now, to try to shed weight and regain control of their lives.
Most patients on My 600-lb Life are fighting for their very lives, battling whatever demons and traumas they’ve dealt with that led to their extreme obesity and all the health problems associated with it. Unfortunately, not every patient has made it through Dr. Now’s program, and the show has suffered seven unfortunate and devastating deaths over the years.
Sean Milliken first appeared on TLC’s My 600-lb Life in 2016, weighing over 900 pounds. Milliken admitted to turning to food at a very young age to cope with the rocky relationship he had with his father. He had successfully lost over 400 pounds with the help of both weight-loss surgery and Dr. Now’s guidance; he was only 29 when he passed in February, 2019.
His father, Matt Milliken, announced the news on Facebook, according to TMZ. He wrote that his son died in a hospital following complications from an infection. “Sunday he was having problems with his breathing, they were able to resuscitate him and a short time later his heart stopped,” the statement reads.
Kelly Mason died the same month as Milliken, just a few days earlier. Mason featured on the fourth season of the show, and weighed 724 pounds when she first met Dr. Now. She was able to shed a drastic amount of weight over the span of a few months, dropping down to 383 pounds.
Sadly, Mason passed away in her sleep due to a heart attack, just one day shy of her 42nd birthday. Dr. Now told her grieving father that she was an inspiration, and that she “fought all the way to the end.” Shortly before her death, she had announced that she felt like she was in a “new world” given her dramatic transformation.
Lisa Fleming was one of three people from Season 6 who passed away after the season ended. Fleming was over 700 pounds when she first appeared on the show, and although she had a controversial and rocky relationship with Dr. Now, he helped her successfully lose 200 pounds before her death. Fleming was 50-years-old when she fell ill and was never able to recover. She passed away on August 23, 2018.
“I am truly at a loss for words right now,” her daughter Danielle shared on Facebook shortly after her mother’s passing. “This morning I sat and held your hand for 4 hours knowing nothing I could’ve done would bring you back to me. Anybody who knows me knows I gave my mother my ALL! … I’m happy you’re no longer in pain and stuck in that bed.”
James “L.B.” Bonner
Another Season 6 cast member, James “L.B.” Bonner took his own life just one week before his castmate Fleming passed away. Fans were devastated by Bonner’s passing, considering he was so optimistic and hardworking throughout his journey. He had even managed to lose more than half of his initial 650 pounds before his death.
Bonner had previously opened up about his struggle with depression on the show, which eventually led him to commit suicide. He had written “It’s time that I face my demons head on” on the evening of August 2nd, 2018 on social media, and committed suicide shortly after.
Robert Buchel suffered a heart attack while filming his journey, and died November 15, 2017. Buchel initially weighed over 800 pounds when he started Dr. Now’s program, and was able to drop 340 before he passed away. Buchel’s death was the first in the series to be featured during the patient’s respective episode.
His fiancé Kathryn Lemanski said, at the time of his passing, “I lost my best friend and the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. He told me, ‘I don’t think I’ll make it through the night. I love you and I always will.”
Henry Foots was the second person ever to feature on the show, weighing 750 pounds when his journey first started. Foots was trying to lose weight for a high school reunion, although his procedure was difficult; he had died once already during a procedure to remove excess skin, but the doctors managed to revive him.
Unfortunately, Foots passed away on May 16, 2013, about 18 months after his episode of My 600-Lb Life aired. His obituary stated that Foots “went home to be with the Lord.”
James King is another My 600-lb Life star who passed away shortly earlier this year. According to King’s obituary, he died on April 3, 2020 at Saint Thomas Midtown in Nashville after his heart gave out. King got very sick back in early February and his liver and kidneys were shutting down due to his weight, according to TMZ. He died two short months later.
The network confirmed King’s death in a tweet, writing, “TLC was deeply saddened by the loss of James King, who shared his weight-loss journey on My 600lb Life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”