It has been over two years and the tragedy of Michael Jackson’s death has finally been laid to rest. The verdict of accidental manslaughter highlights how dangerous medications of any kind can be. A couple of years ago I wrote about the events surrounding Michael Jackson’s death and tried to look at why Dr. Conrad Murray was being tried for manslaughter rather than some other charge like murder. I also took a look at what happened and how.
Now that the verdict is in, it looks like Dylan Schaffer was right and the verdict does match what we knew publicly. There are a great many lessons that can be learned from the whole saga, but the biggest one is that people really need to try to understand what the medications prescribed for them do, why they should and should not take them and most importantly, really know what the right dosages are. And please do not be fooled by the fact that the drug in question is a rare and powerful one that requires prescription and careful administration.
It is all too easy to die from taking simple over the counter medications in the wrong amounts and at the wrong time. And mixing and matching medications and other substances makes things worse. Probably the easiest way to get yourself in trouble with medications is something like getting a headache and the flu, taking a heavy dose of paracetamol, then a couple of stiff drinks and a big slug of something like Nyquil. Suddenly you are getting awfully close to liver damage or death.
The MJ case – why manslaughter?
According to an AP law enforcement source, “Michael Jackson’s personal doctor administered a powerful anesthetic to help him sleep, and authorities believe the drug killed the pop singer.” And the fact that “the drug can depress breathing and lower heart rates and blood pressure. Because of the risks, propofol is supposed to be administered only in medical settings by trained personnel.” So why is Dr. Conrad Murray being investigated for manslaughter? Why not, as LaToya Jackson claims, a charge of murder? Do doctors have special status when it comes to homicides?
To find out the answer to these questions, I had the pleasure of interviewing prominent appellate attorney, Dylan Schaffer. Mr. Schaffer has worked on many widely-covered local cases, and is also the author of a great novel, Misdemeanor Man, as well as several other books. He’s provocative, fascinating, and opinionated – check out this Doc Gurley Interview, 6 minutes with an expert: Dylan Schaffer. In it, he’ll answer such questions as, just how bad does the gross malpractice have to get before it reaches the level of murder? During trials, do other doctors, in essence, decide what is murder (and what’s not)? When it comes to doctors, what do John Belushi and Michael Jackson have in common?
To me Michael Jackson and his doctor were equally at fault. Both were victims of the celebrity culture,. This culture engenders the feeling of immunity from harm – and a sense of immortality. The verdict makes sense, but M.lJs family should recognize M.J. was also responsible for the tragedy.
The final question, “What do John Belushi and Michael Jackson have in common,” is that they were both drug addicts surrounded by people (i.e., Conrad Murray in this case) who enabled them to continue. Throw in Amy Winehouse and Anna Nicole Smith into the heap, too. It’s just that they had the money to pay doctors and others to get and administer their drugs, unlike the average drug addict who gets his/her drugs off the street and risks overdoses, HIV and other dangers on a daily basis. Their deaths don’t make the news.
This blog is mixing apples with oranges — substance abuse is a VASTLY different issue than the average consumer/patient understanding the dangers of drug interactions.
MJ’s family can now nod their collective their heads and use the court’s decision to “cleanly” point the finger of blame to “Dr.” Murray and away from their culpability in the outcome of MJ’s troubled upbringing. Michael Jackson became a talented freak who’s outstanding music and performances were not enough to hide his personal pain. Dr. Murray got what he deserved but that does not mean MJ didn’t have an addiction, or that he didn’t push and pay his doctor to act as an enabler not a caregiver. Where was his family when he needed an intervention not a drug dispensing physician?