Brittany Murphy's death could have been prevented by stopping paparazzi from hounded her, leading pathologist claims

The actress put off seeking medical attention because she was frightened of the incident leaking to the press

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The Independent Online

Brittany Murphy would still be alive today if she had been taken to hospital 24 hours before she collapsed, a leading pathologist has claimed.

The actress put off seeking medical attention when she first started experiencing breathing difficulties because she was frightened of the incident leaking to the press.

Instead, she remained reclusive and suffering in her home due to the paparazzi gathered outside.

Because of Murphy’s fears, it has been alleged in a new documentary, her mother Sharon only called for an ambulance after she had collapsed on 20 December 2009.

A coroner in 2010 confirmed that pneumonia and anaemia had been the cause of the late Clueless actress’s death – the same two conditions that would lead to the death of her husband, British filmmaker Simon Monjack, five months later.

But now, Dr Richard Shepherd – who examined the deaths of Princess Diana and Jill Dando  – has claimed that doctors could have saved her life, had she been admitted to hospital just 24 hours earlier.


"By the time Brittany collapsed in her bathroom there was probably nothing the paramedics or hospital staff could have done to save her. But had she been taken to hospital 24 hours earlier and given intravenous drugs, there is a very good chance she would have survived and would still be here today," he said.

"Brittany was so sedated it’s quite possible neither Simon nor Sharon had any idea how ill she actually was. That may be the reason why they didn’t call an ambulance."

He goes on to describe the "cocktail" of prescription medication she had been taking in the weeks before her death. These included anti-depressants, sedatives, and cough medicine for her chest infection.

"Drugs can have a very beneficial effect but they also have side effects. And mixing them together means that these side effects can combine and become lethal.

"Cough medication is designed to stop you coughing so that you feel better. But actually it also stops you bringing up the mucus and the bacteria out of your lungs. So it tends to make pneumonias worse. Brittany was perhaps coughing but she wasn’t coughing enough or fiercely enough to clear the mucus in her lungs."

He further discusses theories around the condition of her home that could have made her illness worse.

Murphy’s mother had asked the pathologist to investigate fungi in the mould that was growing on her walls.

"The autopsy report shows they didn’t find any fungi, either in her blood stream or in the sections of lung that they examined under the microscope. So mould and fungi haven’t played a direct role in the death of Brittany.

"But living in poor housing conditions like that is likely to have had a debilitating effect and contributed to her infection and death." He added: "She was apparently living in appalling conditions."

Dr Richard Shepherd’s findings appear in documentary, Autopsy: The Final Hours of Brittany Murphy, set to be aired tomorrow night (7 August) at 9pm on Channel 5.