How Could This Have Happened To Brittany Murphy? Expert Doctors Weigh In On Her Sudden Death

Mon, December 21, 2009 9:16am EDT by 2 Comments


She was only 32-years-old, so what could have caused Brittany Murphy to collapse from cardiac arrest on Dec. 20 in her LA home?  “It is very uncommon to die suddenly [at 32],” Dr. Laura Fisher, an internist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, tells  “This is very, very uncommon.”

While Brittany’s mom, Sharon Murphy, told 911 that her daughter had type 2 diabetes, Dr. Fisher says that someone as young as Brittany “usually [doesn’t] die” from the disease.”

Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist and lung specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York agrees:  “This is very rare for a healthy 32-year-old girl to go into cardiac arrest, unless there are drugs involved, or a congenital heart disease … Type 2 diabetes would be unusual in a thin person like Brittany.”

The best explanation for the collapse, says Dr. Horovitz, would be Brittany’s very low body weight. Responding to reports that Brittany was looking extremely thin at recent events, Dr. Horovitz says, “Electrolyte imbalance [caused by not eating enough or drinking enough fluids] can cause someone to be low in potassium, and low potassium can cause cardiac arrest. Laxatives can also cause low potassium and arrhythmia. Prescription drug use, diuretics and laxatives alone will result in cardiac arrest.”

Brittany may have been suffering from heart disease, and she might not have even known it! “She could have had true heart disease. There are several things that could have happened when it comes to her heart. Real obstruction, coronary artery spasm, or a clotting disorder which makes you form clots. There would be no signs of that, there would be no way of her knowing,” says Dr. Marianne Legato, an internist at Columbia University.

“Sometimes the only way you know is the very first episode,” says Dr. Horovitz. —Corynne Steindler & Chloe Melas

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