The Office Actor Mark York's Cause Of Death Explained

Actor Mark York, a series regular on seasons one and two of the hit NBC comedy, "The Office," died May 19th, 2021.

According to his obituary, York had a "brief and unexpected illness," leading up to his death. Although the specific details of his illness were not immediately available, York's father disclosed to TMZ that his son's death was related to the unforeseen development of a bodily infection.

On "The Office," York played the role of Billy Merchant. Like his character, Mark was a paraplegic, and the nature of his role helped to raise awareness around the need for more media representation of those in wheelchairs in both television and film.

In a 2010 interview with People, York discussed how his Merchant character resonated with fans, shedding light on difficulties employees with disabilities experience in the workplace. As stated in his obituary by the Kreitzer Funeral Home, "Even though he has been paraplegic since 1988, he had such an outgoing, uplifting, positive attitude and personality."

York's passion for spinal cord injury research

According to the biography on York's website, that near-fatal car accident changed his life and served as motivation for his academic, acting, and philanthropic goals. In recent years, his interests had extended from beyond acting to inventing, having obtaining two patents.

Additionally, York was known for his active support in finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. He contributed to non-profit research organizations, and on several occasions, met with law-makers to advocate for those with disabilities (via the New York Times).

A spinal cord injury is considered damage to either the spinal cord or its nerves, impacting multiple body functions such as range of motion or mental or physical sensations (via the Mayo Clinic). There is currently no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, an estimated 450,000 Americans are living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) with an estimated 17,000 new injuries occurring annually (via American Association of Neurological Surgeons). Experts suggest taking extra precautions to safeguard against permanent spinal damage. Examples include the proper wearing of seatbelts, the use of helmets or other protective padding for athletes or those actively engaged in sports, as well as always being aware of the depth of water when swimming in order to avoid collision and injury (via Healthline).