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Brittany Murphy's death certificate released; cause of death deferred

December 30, 2009 | 10:48 am

Bmurphy The Los Angeles County coroner released Brittany Murphy's death certificate Tuesday and, as expected, no underlying cause of death was listed for the actress who passed away Dec. 20.

Cause of death was listed as "deferred."

That's not unusual -- it's the same situation we saw after singer Michael Jackson's death, and it's the same thing that happens as well when any non-celebrity person dies suddenly in the jurisdiction of the L.A. County Department of Coroner.

No special celebrity treatment here, just a lot of heightened celebrity interest.

"Toxicology is just one part of a bigger puzzle that has to come in," said Capt. John Kades of the coroner's office, speaking in general about what happens in L.A. County after a person dies suddenly -- with no obvious cause of death, such as a gunshot. This is "par for the course," he said, in the case of a 32-year-old woman, or any young person, famous or not.

In addition to toxicology tests -- often the big talker in celebrity cases -- studies might be conducted after an autopsy to look for evidence of disease in a person's organs (that's when you hear about "histopathology" tests) or brain tissue ("neuropathology").

"Naturally occurring diseases could be found in any person that could lead to death," Kades told CNN shortly after Brittany's death.

Toxicological and other tests from the Dec. 21 autopsy on Murphy's body are expected to take the usual six to eight weeks to complete. According to L.A. Now, authorities said Murphy had been taking prescription drugs for medical ailments.

After results come back, the doctor who conducted the autopsy sits down with "an abundance of information," Kades said, and renders an informed medical opinion as to cause of death.

And all that takes time.

-- Christie D'Zurilla

Photo: Brittany Murphy on June 27, 2005. Credit: Matt Dunham / Associated Press.

Related Ministry of Gossip dispatches:

Brittany Murphy and the USO: an exclusive photo appreciation

Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack: crazy in love

Brittany Murphy dies at 32; young Hollywood reacts

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