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How the vultures circle

December 22, 2009

The death of one is a tragedy but the gossip needs to stop

Yesterday the sad news of the tragic death of Sin City actress Brittany Murphy, was reported to the world.

Just 32 years old, Murphy was reported as dying from a heart attack. TMZ, the celebrity gossip site added more to the story by stating:

We’re told Murphy was taking prescription meds for flu-like symptoms she had been experiencing for several days. We’re told Murphy began vomiting early Sunday morning and told family members she was feeling very ill.

Within hours of her death a profusion of stories began to appear in both US and UK media speculating on the causes of death and adding fuel to rumors that Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack was somehow obstructing the autopsy that would be performed on the actress.

British tabloid The Sun even ran a sensational headline declaring: “Brittany killed by Jacko drugs”, following rumors that a large quantity of prescription medication had been found in Murphy’s home. The Sun continued:

“MOVIE star BRITTANY MURPHY was killed by prescription drugs just like MICHAEL JACKSON, pals feared last night.”

Unnamed pals, sensationalist headlines, and sensationalist, unsubstantiated rumors.

TMZ, which was acclaimed for its gathering of stories surrounding Michael Jackson’s death, began to be sourced by everybody as new developments came out. With stories citing “multiple sources”, “close friends” and everyone else inbetween, by the end of the day, posters on various blogging sites were speculating that Murphy dying of a heart attack could not possibly be normal that that Monjack “sabotaging” plans for an autopsy showed there was something suspicious going on.

I turned off the computer yesterday appalled that once again the world starts to go a little crazy in tragic circumstances like this. And it was no better when I came back online today.

The Huffington Post has (at time of posting blog) eleven Brittany Murphy stories running on it’s Entertainment page alone. Now sure this is a big story, especially when a young actress with a great career (8 Mile, Girl Interrupted, Sin City, Clueless) dies very suddenly, but eleven stories? And each one reads like the front page of a national gossip magazine:

  • Brittany’s Husband SPEAKS: “My World Was Destroyed”
  • PHOTOS: Brittany Murphy’s Husband’s History Of Legal And Personal Problems
  • INNER DEMONS: Body Image, Drug Allegations, Trouble On Set
  • Brittany Murphy Sick, Vomiting Just Before She Died
  • Brittany Murphy Hooked On Drugs Following Plastic Surgeries, Claims UK Paper

Each story seemed filled with rumor, speculation, innuendo, and half truths – and that’s just being kind. And of course, even with the corner’s office stating initial reports suggest Murphy died of a natural cause, a tragic heart attack, and that full autopsy results would not be known for a few more weeks, the scene was being set.

Ed Winter, an assistant chief coroner in Los Angeles County, told The Associated Press that Ms. Murphy apparently collapsed in the bathroom and that the cause of death “appears to be natural.” He said that an official cause of death might not be determined for some time. (NY Times)

This was too much of a tragedy, young people do not just drop dead, and her husband stopped tried to stop the autopsy, something must be going on.

The vultures are circling.

So I decided to have a look at a few things myself. To see if out of the mess that was occurring I could find some sanity.

Questions surrounding Simon Monjack’s reaction to autopsy.

One of the biggest rumors circulating this case is allegations Murphy’s husband, the British screenwriter Simon Monjack had tried to obstruct the autopsy. As everyone knows an autopsy will be a necessity especially given Murphy’s young age. It would seem madness that Monjack could try to get in the way of this. Surely he would want to find out why his partner died? So why?

After a quick search of various gossip online magazines I found a possible answer. Murphy and Monjack married in a low key ceremony in May 2007. According to media reports Murphy and Monjack were married in a private Jewish ceremony. So I did a search on Jewish practices concerning autopsy.

According to several Jewish teaching websites (and using my Jewish learning as a source):

The Jewish belief in the inviolability of the human body is reflect­ed in its attitude to postmortem examinations. The Talmud (San­hedrin 47a) asserts that the biblical imperative of speedy burial (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) is based upon the prohibition of disgrac­ing a corpse. The scope of this prohibition extends beyond delayed burial. Scripture proscribes the inflicting of any form of disgrace upon a corpse. In general, this includes the disfigurement of the body as a result of postmortem dissection (autopsy).

So with a quick search, even though my own findings are not conclusive of Monjack’s behavior, there was some plausibility as to why he acted in a way that to some would deem irrational.

Monjack’s dodgy dealings.

Another story that is circulating about Simon Monjack is his ‘shady’ past which according to the Huffington Post includes “at least two apartment evictions for failure to pay thousands of dollars in back rent, a $470,132 court judgment against him by a British investment bank, a $50,000 lawsuit from his ex-wife.”

However if you read the first paragraph and one of the last you will see:

There is no evidence of foul play in Brittany Murphy’s untimely death, but as her life comes under scrutiny so does the man she quietly married two years ago, whose grieving will be complicated by public interest in his troubled past….

….Despite their personal struggles, Murphy and Monjack appeared to be happy with their relationship. Just a few weeks ago Murphy told People magazine she wanted to become a mother soon.”

So what do these stories achieve? Yes it is true, as the Post points out, attention will now be pointed on Monjack, but this is a man who just lost his wife. And yet how quickly the vultures dive in to character assassinate and put a seed of doubt about Monjack into their viewers minds. By Huffington Post’s own admission “Simon Monjack, is the one who called 911 at 8 a.m” And if one investigates further the Huffington Post also point out in another story, albeit slightly hidden to the skim reader: “Winter [Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter] said Murphy’s family was cooperating with the coroner’s investigation.”

Young healthy people don’t just drop dead!

As sad as it is, and as uncommon as it is, young, seemingly healthy young people do just drop dead. While researching for this piece I was reminded of numerous stories surrounding the sudden deaths of footballers, some young (four year old Josh Dillon died after playing football), and some older (Motherwell captain Phil O’Donnell aged 35).

However Murphy was not a footballer dying tragically on the field. Without speculating, but using rationed analysis, here are the health issues that Brittany had and that are documented and that could have contributed to her tragic death.

Murphy sick, vomiting?

TMZ have claimed that Murphy [was] Sick and Vomiting Just Before She Died. It should also be noted that Murphy suffered from Type II Diabetes and had a cardiac arrest just before her death. Can diabetes cause a heart attack and is vomiting and sickness characteristics of a heart attack in a woman?

The answer is yes and yes to both.

In searching I asked “Can Type 2 Diabetes case a heart attack?” The answer, according to numerous medical sites and using emedicine as a source is:

Diabetes accelerates atherosclerosis, (the formation of fatty plaques inside the arteries), which can lead to blockages or a clot (thrombus). Such changes can then lead to heart attack, stroke, and decreased circulation in the arms and legs (peripheral vascular disease).

And according to the American Diabetes Association speaking about the effects and complications on women:

Diabetes can be especially hard on women….Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes.

A heart attack therefore was likely. And not uncommon amongst type 2 diabetes sufferers.

I also wanted to see if heart attack symptons in women can include vomiting:

Nausea and vomiting: You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit. (

Although the advice states that in women:

Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, the most common heart attack symptom is still some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than are men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or “heartburn”
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

So again, although my research are just findings based on the reported symptons that Murphy suffered prior to her death, each is born out by evidence pertaining to the symptons of each medical disease.

It should also be noted, and as has been reported by TMZ:

“We’re told Murphy was taking prescription meds for flu-like symptoms she had been experiencing for several days.”

If, as speculation has suggested, Murphy was ill and possibly with Swine Flu (Daily Express: WAS SHE KILLED BY SWINE FLU) then as we have all heard since the outbreak of swine flu, people with underlying health issues can and have died.

Patt Morrison, Hollywood reporter for the LA Times newspaper, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m wondering if it isn’t the flu – the H1N1 virus with perhaps an underlying weakness of the system.

“She was exactly in the age group it hits. She was nauseous and vomiting before her death and cardiac arrest is often the cause of death linked to this type of flu.”

Again these are just my answers to some of the wild speculation that has surfaced in the past twenty four hours. Some may say that by writing this blog I too am just adding to the rumor mill – in some ways I may be, but what I have tried to do with this article is to show that behind all the sensational headlines that have been written about the how, whys of Brittany Murphy’s tragic death, there are logical explanations and this is what people should bear in mind before becoming judge and juror to Murphy’s grieving husband. As he told Access Hollywood: “My world was destroyed yesterday,”

Initial reports suggest Murphy died of natural causes. Toxicology results will not be known for several weeks, therefore all the column inches while understandable on one hand because of the sudden and tragic nature of this death, do not help and as I mentioned earlier only seed doubt in people’s head. And of course once someone has made up their mind about things, it is often hard to tell them otherwise. And linking Murphy’s death to that of Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and River Phoenix is not helpful.

I hope, (though I also begrudgingly know it won’t happen), that the press simmers down and urges some caution in their stories and that readers of those stories try to keep an open mind until the full coroners results are known.

What is most important, Brittany Murphy was a promising young actress who had already made a successful career for herself. Her death is very tragic and even more so because of her young age. Our thoughts should be with the family, not trying to point fingers at people before the whole truth is known.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2009 1:16 pm

    I lost a brother at a young age from diabetes and there are a couple things I learned that surprised me. One, if you are younger than a certain age (varies by state), an autopsy is mandated. Even if the family doesn’t want to know the cause of death, the “law” wants to know if the death was a natural one. And I learned that, technically speaking, most of us die of a heart attack. I would say that diabetes caused my brother’s death but the death certificate says his heart malfunctioned. I suppose we are both right.

    • January 8, 2010 4:52 pm

      I’m very sorry about your loss but thank you for sharing your story

  2. December 24, 2009 3:14 pm

    Thanks Sean, and yes time will tell. From what I have gathered from reading about this, I think H1N1 COULD be a possibility. But nothing is concrete yet – it’s just very sad when someone dies this young

  3. seanbond permalink
    December 24, 2009 2:14 pm

    Well this is truly sad and at first I did not know who she was from the recent video interviews. Then they showed the clip from Clueless and realized just who Brittany was… I’m wondering if H1N1 claimed another victim. Time will tell once they get all the data.

    Great research BTW 😉

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