Michael Jackson Case a Template for Working the System

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The ongoing trial of Doctor Conrad Murray shows just how celebrities manipulate the medical system for their own ends. Dr. Murray is charged with negligent homicide in the death of Michael Jackson, and the details that have come out in the trial aren’t encouraging.

It is disputed whether Michael Jackson was addicted to prescription drugs or a victim of over-medication to treat an actual illness. However, with 13 different aliases and an unknown number of doctors, it’s clear that being a well-know celebrity can buy you a work-around for the normal checks and balances. In the Jackson case, the situation is even more extreme – rent a personal physician to get even better drugs.

A dangerous trend

This story is as old as Elvis Presley’s death. Presley was noted for having a collection of pain pills and barbiturates, and among the “cocktail” of drugs found in his system were morphine, Demerol, chloropheniramine and Valium.

Then there was Anna Nicole Smith, who died from a different mix, but still prescription drugs: chloral hydrate, Klonopin, Ativan, Serax and Valium, among others. Tragically, her son had died less than six months before from a lethal combination of methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro.

The recipe seems to be multiple doctors and multiple types of similar drugs that are either self-administered by the patient or by misadventure.

The price of fame

Is it surprising that money and fame gets you enough prescription drugs to die? Not really. We grant celebrity a special status and allow them to live largely beyond the pale. But it is this very “specialness” that entails the risk.

Privacy issues are no small part of the equation. Without knowing your patient’s aliases or what other medical treatment they are receiving, there’s no way for a physician to monitor the situation. While this hasn’t yet been shown in the Michael Jackson case, the defense is expected to argue that Dr. Murray did have relevant medical information concealed from him.

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