On December 20th, 2009, the world received the news that 32-year-old actress Brittany Murphy had died suddenly after collapsing in the Hollywood Hills home she shared with her mother, Sharon, and husband, Simon Monjack. Her death was ruled an accident. But the murkiness that surrounded Murphy’s demise has plagued fans and loved ones for nearly a decade.
The Los Angeles County coroner stated that Murphy’s cause of death was pneumonia, anemia, and “multiple drug intoxication,” from both prescription and over-the-counter medications, Coroner Asst. Chief Ed Winter told People in 2009. However, no illegal drugs were found in her system.
In a 2011 Hollywood Reporter article, Murphy’s family friend, Alex Ben Block, wrote about the strangeness of Murphy’s final months. When Block interviewed Simon Monjack shortly after Murphy’s death, Monjack stated that he was convinced his wife had perished from a broken heart.
Murphy’s career was on the downfall due to rumored drug use and lateness, which hindered her from getting jobs. Tabloids also gossiped about a possible struggle with anorexia. But according to Monjack, those rumors were falsehoods. The actress supposedly had a heart murmur, which could have been seriously amplified if drugs entered her system. And she was at a healthy weight when she died.
Block wrote that the timeline leading up to Murphy’s death started with a trip to San Juan. While there, Monjack and Murphy’s mother caught colds, and after returning home, Murphy caught the same bug.
On top of the prescription medication she was taking for pain from a previous car accident, and for seizures caused by an accident on the set of 8 Mile, Murphy took, “the antibiotic Biaxin, migraine pills, cough medicine and an over-the-counter nasal spray,” to treat her illness, Block noted.
The day she died, Murphy had also ingested an anti-depressant, an anti-seizure medication, an inflammatory drug, one of Monjack’s beta blockers, and Vicoprofen for period pain.
Her period was what caused her anemia and ultimately weakened her body even more during the bug’s duration. Ten days from when she first fell ill, Murphy could barely breath. Her lungs were filling with fluid and, according to Block, her lips were turning blue from lack of oxygen.
She had only consulted doctors over the phone and had an office visit planned for the day after her death. Monjack and Murphy rarely went to doctors due to the fact that they were afraid that if the paparazzi got wind that either of them were ill, it would only hurt their career prospects more.
Monjack was the one to incite said paranoia regarding paparazzi in Murphy, Block wrote. He was a frequent liar and an ultimate manipulator and used those traits to control Murphy and separate her from the outside world.
Oddly enough, Monjack died just five months after his wife. The cause of his death was ruled almost exactly the same as Murphy’s — pneumonia and anemia. But perhaps, after losing Murphy, it was Monjack himself who died of a broken heart.
Monjack supposedly suffered from heart problems and a seizure disorder, yet his autopsy report showed no issues with his heart. This led many to believe he developed Munchausen’s syndrome, and lied about his multiple illnesses.
It was Monjack who eventually insisted on calling 911 the morning Murphy collapsed, but it was too late. There was nothing doctors could do. The coroner stated that if Murphy had been to the doctors early on, her death could have been prevented.
The official cause of death written on Murphy’s autopsy report only tells one side of the story. Yes, Murphy was sick with pneumonia, and yes, she suffered from anemia. But there are more circumstances that played into her death than what’s on that piece of paper.
She and her husband’s paparazzi paranoia resulted in them shopping around for multiple doctors and medications that worked best for their lifestyle.
Murphy also often used fake names on her prescriptions to lessen pharmacists’ concerns about multiple medications being prescribed by multiple doctors.
A prescription drug cocktail and detrimental paranoia incited by Monjack tell the other side of Murphy’s tragic story. She would have lived if she had gone to a doctor. She would have lived if she had not taken this, that, or the other medication. She would have lived if she had seen through Monjack’s manipulation.
But sadly, Murphy instead left us much too early. The mystery as to who is really to blame for her death remains unsolved and although it’s frustrating, we must remember Murphy not for her death — but for the talented, beautiful, giggly person she was in life.