Michael Jackson’s Doctor – Guilty

I watched the verdict live yesterday – by accident. It felt somewhat voyeuristic and sadistic to watch a close-up of a man as he hears his fate — a little too Hunger Games for my liking. “We find Conrad Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter.” My first instinct was to be appalled. The torture of his soul and the ultimate demise of this pop icon was sad and tragic. But, is his doctor to blame? We all saw Jackson’s grasp on reality loosen over the years. He clearly had major drug addiction issues. His celebrity would make it difficult for anyone, even a doctor, to deny him that which he was demanding. I likened Murray’s guilty verdict to O.J.’s not-guilty verdict. Be a celebrity in this society and the rules will cater to you. Jackson’s loyal sequined-glove wearing fans wanted someone to pay. The justice system delivered. But, I realized, like many Americans on current topics, I was reacting based on little or no information. Today’s entry is my effort to discern the facts and then form an opinion – novel an idea as this may be.

1. Conrad Murray is a licensed Cardiologist. He had incurred a great deal of debt and was hired by Jackson for $150,00/month.  He administered medicines to help Jackson, an insomniac, fall to sleep nightly. Involuntary manslaughter is defined as the act of unlawfully killing another human being unintentionally.

2. The cause of death stated in the autopsy report was acute Propofol intoxication. In addition to Propofol, several benzodiazepines were found in Jackson’s bloodstream. Benzodiazepines are usually used as sleeping aids and for anxiety relief.

3. Propofol is a general anesthetic that is given through an IV.  It is labeled to be administered by an anesthesiologist in a hospital setting and requires constant monitoring. It is not labeled or recommended as a sleeping aid. It is used when patients need to sleep through invasive and painful surgeries, not when they need to sleep through mental illness. (Are you sensing I am starting to agree with the jury?) It is used recreationally, and dangerously, because it causes a state of euphoria before it causes sleep. Additionally, unlike some other meds used for sleep, there is no rescue agent for propofol. That is, there is no medicine to reverse its effects.

4. Dr. Murray did use a monitoring device but it was not designed for continuous use. He did call 911 but only after about 80minutes of CPR and other medical attempts to save him. When paramedics arrived on-scene, he did not disclose that he had administered propofol.

5. The defense’s strategy was that Jackson knew all about propofol, knew the risk, was capable of administering it himself.

O.K. I am officially over my anger. Well done, prosecutors and jurors. I believe Murray is guilty, but I still have sympathy for him. Yes, doctors should be held to a higher standard, but, to me, he seems like a puppet in all this. He was a personal doctor to a superstar and, undoubtably, with that comes difficult professional and ethical choices. He crossed the line. No matter how badly M.J. wanted the drug, under those circumstances, he was helping the King of Pop only if suicide was the intent. That being said, Michael Jackson was a fatal overdose waiting to happen. Murray has lost everything. I am hoping his sentencing is not too harsh.

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