Details About The Tragic Death Of Joe Biden's Son, Beau

President Joe Biden's family tree includes some broken branches — his eldest son, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, tragically died on June 4, 2015 at just 46 years old. He'd been diagnosed with glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive brain cancer, in 2013. He was first treated in a Houston cancer center after having felt "disorientation and weakness ... while on vacation with his family," per The White House Archives. Beau went through a series of cancer treatments, which included chemo, radiation, and surgery to remove a lesion on his brain. It wasn't his first health scare; in 2010, he'd had a stroke, which he was able to recover from fully.

However, the cancer came back in 2015, and after days of treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he passed away. His family was there with him when he died. In the years after Beau's death, Joe has talked about his final conversation with Beau, and in his 2017 memoir "Promise Me, Dad," he went into details about the final year of his eldest son's life and the struggles and grief the family faced with Beau's cancer and his death.

Joe Biden had theories about how Beau Biden developed cancer

At the time of Beau Biden's death, then Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement that read, in part, "he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life ... Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known," per The New York Times.

Beau was one of the approximately 12,000+ people in the U.S. who are diagnosed with glioblastoma each year, per the American Brain Tumor Association. Those who are diagnosed face some tough odds; they have a "40% survival in the first year post-diagnosis and 17% in the second year," according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. It's the same cancer that John McCain and Senator Edward M. Kennedy had, and there is no cure, though treatments may help reduce and remove the tumors.

Beau was deployed to Iraq in 2009 with the Delaware National Guard, and he was stationed at bases with large burn pits — open air holes that were used to destroy everything from tires to electronics. Joe has floated the idea that his son's cancer could have come from his time in Iraq working around that toxic smoke. So it was personal for Joe, when as president, he signed the PACT Act in 2022, which gives veterans increased access to federal healthcare after exposure to toxic substances, including burn pits.

Beau Biden's life was bookended by tragedy

Beau Biden's unexpected death came as he had been considering a run for governor of Delaware in 2016. Some had thought that Beau would run for Joe Biden's vacated Senate seat when Joe first became vice president, but Beau instead ran for and won his second term as Delaware's Attorney General.

Joe cited Beau's death as one of the contributing factors deterring him from entering the presidential race in 2016. Going through the grief of such a tragic loss is inherently stressful, as is a presidential campaign, and Joe came to the conclusion that it wasn't the right time.

Sadly, Joe has faced the loss of beloved family members before. Joe's first wife Neilia Hunter Biden and their 13-month-old daughter Naomi tragically died after being hit by a tractor-trailer in 1972 while Christmas tree shopping. Their sons Beau and Hunter were in the car and they were hospitalized. When Beau spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, he spoke about the aftermath of the accident: "One of my earliest memories was being in that hospital, Dad always at our side," (via Politico), and he noted how his father was sworn into the Senate while next to his sons in the hospital.