Almost 12 years after the tragic death of actress Brittany Murphy, an HBO Max documentary was released that dives into more details about the end of her life. The two-part documentary titled "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" explores the life of the "Girl, Interrupted" and "Uptown Girls" star before she suddenly died in 2009 after collapsing in the bathroom of her West Hollywood home (via New York Post).
Murphy’s cause of death was initially thought to be a combination of pneumonia and prescription drugs. The official cause of death was listed as untreated pneumonia combined with anemia and a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications (via People). However, "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" sheds more light on the subject with an interview with Dr. Lisa Scheinin, the medical examiner who performed Murphy’s autopsy. Dr. Scheinin believes that drugs did not play a role in Murphy’s death (via USA Today). "She had no evidence of alcohol or any drugs of abuse in her system," she said.
Murphy’s pneumonia and anemia were left untreated for some time
Both pneumonia and anemia are highly treatable, which has led experts to believe that Murphy’s cases must have gone untreated for an extended period of time. According to Dr. Lisa Scheinin, Murphy was likely battling pneumonia for a long time without receiving treatment (via USA Today).
In "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" Dr. Scheinin also referred to Murphy’s anemia as a "life-threatening situation." According to Rolling Stone, her anemia probably developed from her being extremely underweight. The documentary alleges that Murphy’s husband, Simon Monjack, a screenwriter and apparent con artist, encouraged her to lose weight throughout their relationship. He even suggested she get plastic surgery to improve her figure. "To develop an anemia of this nature, she was not eating," the Los Angeles County coroner said in the film. "How did all of this develop?"
The film also alleges that Monjack refused to help Murphy seek medical attention during her final days before she collapsed at home. She was reportedly very ill at home for several days leading up to her death in 2009.
Murphy’s health declined in the months leading up to her death
"What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" interviews several of Murphy’s friends and coworkers. According to them, Murphy’s health began to decline long before her death. "Her eyes were so sunken, and she just seemed so sad," said makeup artist Trista Jordan, who worked with Murphy in 2009 (via People). "She wasn’t herself. She was in so much pain. She had Bambi legs and couldn’t stand up."
Although the cause of the actress’s severe anemia seems to have been her extreme weight loss, the cause of her pneumonia is not known. It should also be noted that her husband, Simon Monjack, died just five months after Murphy from similar causes. The link between the two deaths is not known.
Despite all the mystery and drama around Murphy, documentary director Cynthia Hill wants people to remember who the actress was before her death. "Everyone was so consistent when they would describe her," Hill said. "She was so generous, caring and always thinking about everybody else and I think sometimes that gets forgotten because of all the mystery surrounding her death. She was loved by everyone."
Anemia can cause serious health issues
Anemia is a health condition that happens when there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen around the body (via Medical News Today). There are many different types of anemia that each have their own unique symptoms. Folic acid deficiency anemia can cause irritability and diarrhea while hemolytic anemia can cause jaundice and dark urine. All kinds of anemia share some symptoms, however. These include tiredness, pale skin, a fast or irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. Anemia can also cause shortness of breath, headaches, and light-headedness.
There are many different causes of anemia. One main cause is a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin B-12 and folate are two vitamins essential in red blood cell production. If someone does not have enough of those vitamins in their body for a prolonged period of time, they may develop anemia. Sudden or extreme weight loss, like in the case of Brittany Murphy, can cause vitamin deficiencies. When left untreated, anemia can progressively get worse and become life-threatening.
Pneumonia is also a serious health condition
While anemia causes lack of oxygen throughout the body, pneumonia causes other oxygen issues. Pneumonia is an infection that inflames one or both of the lungs (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. When someone has pneumonia, the air sacs in their lungs fill with fluid or pus. This can cause coughing and difficulty breathing, along with fever and chills.
Symptoms of pneumonia can vary depending on the severity of the illness. People with mild pneumonia may feel like they have a bad bout of the flu while more serious cases will present more serious symptoms. Some common symptoms include chest pain when breathing, coughing with phlegm production, fatigue, and fever. You may also experience sweating, shaking, and chills. People with weakened immune systems may feel colder than normal. Pneumonia can also be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Pneumonia is the most serious in individuals who are young, old, or have weakened immune systems.
No illness should be left untreated
According to "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?" and Murphy’s official cause of death, it is apparent that her pneumonia and anemia went untreated for an extended period of time (via USA Today). Any illness left untreated for a long time can get more serious and become life-threatening. According to Mercer Medicine, health issues often progress slowly until treated. It is easy to put off a visit to the doctor when the health problem doesn’t feel too serious, but this will just allow the issue to get worse.
According to Verywell Health, many people don’t understand their unique health risks or they don’t understand how helpful preventative care can be. They may also be embarrassed or afraid of how their doctor will react to their symptoms. While these concerns are understandable, seeking preventative care can mean the difference between getting better and potentially dying from an illness. If possible, visit your healthcare provider as soon as you can when any negative health symptoms arise in your life.