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 her 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 ability to land acting work. Tabloids spread gossip 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, Puerto Rico. 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 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 cold’s duration. Ten days from when she first fell ill, Murphy could barely breath. Her lungs filled with fluid and, according to Block, her lips turned 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 doctor because they were afraid that if the paparazzi got wind that either of them was ill, their career prospects would decline more.
Monjack incited that paranoia regarding paparazzi in Murphy, Block wrote. He was a frequent liar and manipulator who 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 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, but his autopsy report showed no issues with his heart. This led many to believe he had developed Munchausen syndrome and lied about his multiple illnesses.
Monjack called 911 the morning Murphy collapsed, but it was too late, and there was nothing doctors could do. The coroner stated that if Murphy had been to the doctor 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 was recorded on 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 the 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 multiple medications without supervision. She would have lived if she had seen through Monjack’s manipulation.
But sadly, Murphy instead left us 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 person she was in life.