As the authorities continued to investigate the death of the “Friends” actor Matthew Perry, experts cautioned Monday that it could take weeks or months for the cause to be determined.
Perry was found unresponsive in a hot tub at his home in Los Angeles at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement. The Los Angeles City Fire Department responded to the scene and declared Perry dead, the statement said. He was 54.
Because of Perry’s “celebrity status,” detectives from the Robbery Homicide division conducted a preliminary investigation, the statement said.
“Although there were no obvious signs of trauma, the official cause of Perry’s death is pending the coroner’s investigation,” the statement said. The police have said they had seen no indication of foul play.
Earlier on Monday, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said on its website that Perry’s cause of death was “deferred,” which usually means that further investigation was needed. Later on Monday, Perry’s case was not listed on the website at all.
The department said in an email on Monday afternoon that it had “not yet concluded its investigation.” It gave no further information.
Experts cautioned that it could take weeks or months to conduct a toxicology screening and examine other evidence.
Perry had spoken openly about his struggles with addiction, which sometimes led to hospitalizations for a range of ailments. By his own account, Perry had spent more than half of his life in treatment and rehab facilities.
In his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry also described some of the health challenges he faced over the years. In 2018, he faced a series of medical episodes including pneumonia, an exploded colon, a brief stint on life support, two weeks in a coma, nine months with a colostomy bag and more than a half-dozen stomach operations.
Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist unaffiliated with the investigation, said in a TikTok video about the case that it would be important to determine if Perry’s nose and mouth were below the water line when he was found, indicating that he may have drowned.
If he drowned, it would be important to know why, she said. Was heart disease a factor? Or intoxication? Test results can take weeks because of a lack of qualified toxicologists, funding and equipment, Dr. Melinek said.
Investigators should also look for home security footage that could shed light on the case, she said, and they should investigate the hot tub itself to make sure it was properly grounded and wasn’t heating the water beyond the temperature indicated. If the water was hot but not scalding, she said, it could lead to heat exhaustion and dehydration, which can cause a person to drown.
“It’s appropriate for it to take long,” Dr. Melinek said in an interview on Monday. “Sometimes it takes months to do a proper investigation.”
Dr. James Gill, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner, said it would be important to know if a person found unresponsive in a hot tub had intentionally gone underwater, indicating a suicide, or if they were unable to get out of the water.
A person who was unable to get out of the water may have had a heart attack, he said, or may have taken alcohol or drugs, causing a loss of consciousness.
Medical examiners in such cases will often list the cause of death as “pending,” he said, allowing them to release the body to a funeral home so the family can proceed with a burial or cremation while toxicology tests are being conducted. Those tests, he said, can take weeks to complete.
Dr. Kathryn Pinneri, a former president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, noted in an email that the authorities haven’t said if Perry drowned.
But she said: “Hot tub drownings are usually associated with an underlying heart or neurologic condition or alcohol and/or medications/drugs. So the cause and manner of death are usually pending until the results of those tests come back.”
Perry was 24 when he was cast as the quirky and self-deprecating Chandler Bing on “Friends,” a show that changed his life and firmly planted him in the limelight alongside his co-stars Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer and Jennifer Aniston.
The sitcom ran from 1994 to 2004. Perry went on to star in television shows and movies, some of which — like “Almost Heroes” (1998), with Chris Farley, and “Three to Tango” (1999) — failed to capture audiences at the box office.
Matt Stevens contributed reporting.