Brittany Murphy dies at age 32: I'm worried that it was from natural causes and I'm also worried it wasn't

The first time I remember seeing Brittany Murphy on-screen was opposite Angelina Jolie in the haunting, dark "Girl, Interrupted." Wide-eyed, petite and innocent looking, the actress had an eery depth, raspy voice and could fill up the screen with her presence.

Sunday morning at 10:04 a.m., she was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after reportedly collapsing from cardiac arrest in her Hollywood Hills home. Brittany Murphy was only 32.

As of Monday morning, her family says she'd been experiencing flu-like symptoms in the days before her death. Prescription drugs were taken from her home. TMZ adds to that, reporting there was a "large quantity of prescription drugs" in Brittany Murphy's name, her husband's name, and in her mother's name, and that she vomited excessively before collapsing.

Before "Girl, Interrupted", Brittany Murphy played the "tragically unhip" Tai in "Clueless." Her character is adopted by Cher, played by Alicia Silverstone, and inducted into the elite world of fashion and popularity. But it was in "Girl, Interrupted" that audiences got to see her serious side emerge, priming us all for her gritty, sad, and compelling performance opposite Eminem in "8 Mile."

She went on to develop a following doing voice work for that included a 200-episode run as Luanne Platter on "King of the Hill" and as Gloria in "Happy Feet." Throughout her career, she had many recurring roles in shows many of us loved, going as far back as "Blossom" and "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" through "Frasier", "Party of Five", "Boy Meets World" and others. Her film resume includes "Just Married" with Ashton Kutcher, among others.

Linked romantically at one time to Kutcher, Brittany Murphy was married to British screenwriter Simon Monjack. In response to her death, Kutcher kindly Tweeted "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon." Later, he added, ""see you on the other side kid." Alicia Silverstone commented, "I feel love in my heart for her -- and hope she is at peace. This is truly sad." Lindsay Lohan, Eliza Dushku, Khloe Kardashian, and Jessica Simpson joined a long list of celebrities who offered their condolences on Twitter and to the media.

An investigation in to Brittany Murphy's death, no surprise considering how sudden it was and her age. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter stated that she collapsed in her bathroom. Some reports say she was in her shower at the time. Winter told reporters that her death "appears to be natural" and that toxicology reports and an autopsy will be conducted. TMZ.com says that sources have informed them that Simon Monjack was not in support of an autopsy but that the call for it is left to the coroner.

No matter what the reports reveal, whether another unsuspecting woman died too young of cardiac arrest (heart health is a very real and serious issue for women that you can read more about here) or whether it was spurred by a medical complication or otherwise, her death is tragic. When I heard about it, I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, deep breathing before one more trip into an out-of-control store full of holiday shoppers. I stopped, turned off the car, and a wave of sadness washed over me.

And then I wondered what I imagine countless people wondered -- if there is any way in the world her death was not drug-related. And then I wondered what it is that may have created this immediate reaction, this monster of suspicion and cynicism. Is it how regularly it happens? Is it the many celebrity deaths we've mourned in this last year, some of the most notable involving drug abuse? Is it the intense and persistent gossip that makes us believe the story must always be bigger, deeper, more astonishing?

There are also suspicions that anorexia, high stress levels, or diabetes (which family members say she had) could have caused her death.

Maybe it doesn't matter. What matters is that a young woman -- a young, talented woman who we came to know on all three screens -- is dead far before her time.

If the cause was natural, that is sad and scary. And if it was otherwise, that is sad and scary, too. In both scenarios, I am sure we all wish she could have been helped.




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[photo via: Yahoo! News]