Brittany Murphy: A Needless Celebrity Death

By Martin Brown

BrittanyMurphyThe lead story in the Thursday, February 4th morning edition of the Los Angeles Times was simple and direct. It began: “The L.A. County coroner’s office says actress Brittany Murphy died of pneumonia complicated by an iron deficiency, anemia and multiple drug intoxication.”

The Times, one of the nation’s top five dailies, has long made a reputation for devotedly following the comings and goings of Hollywood celebrities. Their marriages and divorces, their sudden rises and often equally sudden falls in the ever changing world of fame, and, on occasion, their unanticipated deaths.

At about 8 a.m. on the morning of December 20, 2009 one of those unanticipated deaths occurred. Murphy, age 32, went into cardiac arrest while showering at her home in the Hollywood Hills that she shared with husband Simon Monjack . Los Angeles firefighters and paramedics responded. Unable to revive Murphy, they rushed her to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where she was pronounced dead two hours later.

The Atlanta native, born in 1977, first rose to national attention at 18 playing opposite Alicia Silverstone in the 1995 hit film, “Clueless.” With films like “Girl Interrupted” (1999), “8 Mile” (2002), “The Dead Girl” (2006), and “Across the Hall” (2009), Murphy’s career continued to develop.

But sadly, along the way, Murphy appeared to develop an eating disorder. Her shockingly thin profile certainly lent credence to the rumors that she suffered bouts of anorexia. The coroner’s findings of “iron deficiency, and anemia,” are further evidence that Murphy was depriving herself of basic nutrition.

Michael Jackson’s death, six months earlier, in June of last year, was another example of an unanticipated death. A death, that like Murphy’s was both needless and avoidable.

The human body has great tolerance for the abuse that we can heap upon it. Sadly, as we have been reminded in the case of Jackson and now Murphy, abuse has it’s limits. Jackson, 18-years Murphy’s senior, died of what the L.A. coroner described as “acute propofol intoxication.” Jackson paid a physician, in this case Dr. Conrad Murray, to sedate him with a powerful substance that is used to provide a “lack of awareness during short surgical procedures.” Murray is expected to be arrested this month for using the drug frequently to help Jackson sleep.

In the case of Brittany Murphy, while the details of her “drug intoxication” at this time are unknown, is another example of a highly paid celebrity, possibly through the use of aliases, taking a dangerous combination of drugs, while also denying herself the basic nutrition we all need to fight off opportunistic infections such as pneumonia.

Two deaths, Jackson and Murphy, six months apart, both of which did not need to occur. Fame can buy a lot, but it won’t buy a free pass from the basic biology that separates us from healthy and whole to dangerously unhealthy behaviors. Fame won’t buy someone the simple common sense that should tell a person that reckless disregard of your health can bring a sudden end to the most promising of careers.

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CIGFMR180Martin Brown is the Health Channel editor for He is also the co-author (along with his wife, Josie) of THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO FINDING MR. RIGHT, the perfect self-help manual for your BFF (…okay, and for you, too).