The recurrence of widespread and diverse vascular lesions is a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Inflammatory and thrombotic mechanisms almost invariably associated with circulating antiphospholipid antibodies play a role in the pathogenesis of SLE-related vascular disease. Both mechanisms can coexist in the same patient. Vasculitis is most commonly induced by the local deposition of immune complexes. However, some SLE patients have an inflammatory complement-mediated vascular injury in the absence of immune complex deposition. We report on a fatal case of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) in a young woman with active SLE. Hemorrhagic lesions due to localized intravascular coagulation (Shwartzman phenomenon) preceded disseminated intravascular coagulation accompanied by disseminated cardiac necrosis. Immune complex 'independent' and other mechanisms of vascular injury and states of hypercoagulability will be discussed.