Matthew Perry knew exactly what would happen after his death.

UPDATE: On December 16, Matthew Perry's autopsy results were released. His death was a result of drowning due to the "acute effects of Ketamine". Also present in his system was the prescription opioid buprenorphine, usually prescribed to treat opioid addiction, and the effects of heart disease were also detectable. Fascination with Perry's drug use and with his final days, weeks and hours have only intensified since the findings were released, as if permission has been explicitly given for more speculation, more conjecture, and more judgement. This is exactly what Perry knew would happen.

The original piece reads: 

There is little dignity in death for the famous.

Anyone who read Matthew Perry’s blistering addiction memoir, Friends, Lovers And The Big Terrible Thing, knows that what would happen when he was gone was something he had thought about plenty.

The book opens with the statement: "Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead."

He wrote that he knew if he died, the people in his life would be "shocked, but not surprised".

And he wrote that, in a bid to stay alive as he fought his big, terrible disease, he had spent more than half his life in rehab or sober-living centres. And more than nine million dollars.

He was also very aware of the impact his fame had on how he was treated. As an addict, as a patient, and as a mark.

He wrote about the facilities and professionals who wouldn't treat him, or wouldn't acknowledge they'd treated him because they didn't want a "celebrity death" on their books. He wrote about needing 14 different surgeries on his stomach after the long-term painkiller abuse caused his colon to explode, and about how, when it did, the staff at the clinic he was in thought this was another "famous guy" ploy just to get pills.


There is no evidence that Perry's death was linked to his decades-long addiction to alcohol and opioids, but as he painfully, carefully described, it had left him with significant health issues. Like any deadly disease, addiction had taken its pound of flesh from Perry.

And now, in his passing, our fascination is extracting another.

WATCH: The final scene of sitcom 'Friends'. Post continues after video. 

Video via Warner Bros.

It's been less than a month since the world lost one of the most famous faces from one of the most famous TV shows ever made. The initial outpouring of love and praise was respectful and restrained, but what's come next has been predictably dire.

At his funeral – held at the starriest of LA cemeteries, but deliberately tiny and intimate – his co-stars were long-lens papped and pored over for the tiniest signals of their reactions. 

The house where Perry died was put under constant press surveillance, with every item removed from his home and car documented. Look, a multi-pack of kitchen towel! A fast-food burger wrapper! Each one examined with breathless insinuation of a possibly tawdry double purpose.

A woman he dated for a few months in 2006 gave interviews suggesting Perry had lapsed in his sobriety before his death, despite the fact she hadn't spoken to him in almost two decades. Another, who he'd had dinner with just a few nights before he died, shared pictures of private notes he'd written to her.


His death certificate was published in full. 

The sober living companion and friend who lived with him for much of the past few years – who he goes to great lengths to praise and protect in his book – was "unmasked", her full name and photograph published.

It's all predictable stuff. We have never been kind to dead celebrities, not least ones who we can somehow find a way to blame for their own passing.

But perhaps what is most cruel about the way the symptoms of Perry's disease are being picked over is that, unlike many others – and many of us – he was entirely honest and candid about the darkest corners of his life while he was still living it.

If it were possible to suffocate the macabre fascination people have with celebrity addicts, to flood any shame with sunlight, you would imagine that the brilliant Friends, Lovers And The Big Terrible Thing would have done it.

He dedicated the book to "all of the sufferers out there. You know who you are."

He said that he knew the "why" of him still being alive was to help fellow addicts.

He painted a picture of a supposedly charmed life blighted by something many of us will never truly understand, exposing the unbecoming lengths a desperate addict will go for their essential poison. He wrote the memoir himself, without a ghostwriter, chronicling all the people he'd hurt, all the damage he'd done, all the messes he'd made.


Matthew Perry showed us his wounds and still, it seems, it has not been enough for us. 

LISTEN: On this Mamamia Out Loud episode, the hosts unpack Perry's career, struggle with addiction and his profoundly honest memoir. Post continues below.

Now, in death, Perry's friends and family will continue to be stalked and judged and analysed. The results of his toxicology report will bring unflattering images of Perry long beyond Chandler back to all our feeds. Those people who kinda sorta knew him will continue to sell their stories, ones he's already told.

And what Matthew Perry knew would happen will keep on happening.

Except for the people who owe their lives to him. They will never fall for it. The addicts who say he saved them, the ones who'll go on to be helped by the foundation started in his honour.

They know that the people tutting over the fuss made over a privileged movie star don't get what he stood for, what he survived, what he helped us all understand.

They don't need to read the tell-alls or zoom in on the expression on a grieving Jennifer Aniston's face to assess if he was worth missing.

They know he is. Of course he is.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, contact the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. It will automatically direct you to the Alcohol and Drug Information Service in your state or territory.

Feature Image: Getty.

This article was originally published on November 13, 2023, and has since bene updated.