Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Take on Michael Jackson's Death, Propofol, and His Doctor

Propofol…also known as Diprivan. Many people reading this may not have heard of the drug that played a major role Michael Jackson’s death on 6/25/09, but now that has all changed. His doctor, Conrad Murray (a cardiologist), who ordered the drug for Michael Jackson, and who is now on trial for involuntary manslaughter (causing the unintentional death of another, in this case due to negligence), ordered the drug for Michael Jackson and made it available to him.

What people need to understand about propofol is that this is not a pill you get from your pharmacist or buy off the street. This is a very powerful medication you get in a surgery room to render you unconscious. It is a white, milky liquid that looks like Milk of Magnesia. It is so mind altering that it is referred to by doctors as Milk of Amnesia. In fact, Jackson reportedly referred to it as his “milk.”  I’ve been given this medication many times when I was younger for various surgical procedures. I remember watching the doctor push the medication in and telling myself that I would see how long I could mentally resist its effect. Within 10 seconds, I was out cold…every time.

Now, the trial needs to play out of course and people are innocent until proven guilty, but there is no getting around the fact that people simply should not be administering this medication outside of a surgical setting, where anesthesiologists (not cardiologists) are on hand to closely monitor the patient. Why? The drug is so powerful that it slows the heart rate down and can make it impossible to breathe without use of a respirator. Keep in mind that Michael Jackson was found in full cardiac arrest by paramedics.

On top of using propofol, Michael Jackson was also using several other sedating medications (lorazepam, diazepam, and midazolam). You are probably familiar with lorazepam and diazepam since they are usually marketed under the name, Ativan and Valium, respectively. Both are typically prescribed in pill form to treat acute anxiety but have other uses that cause sedation (e.g., insomnia treatment). Midazolam is sometimes marketing as Versed. It is a very powerful medication that is sometimes also used in surgical centers for sedation. He also had lidocaine in his system, which is a local anesthetic medication commonly used in dental offices. Lastly, he was using ephedrine, which is a stimulant medication.

All of these medications were found in Michael Jackson’s system when he died, with propofol and lorazepam in the greatest amounts. Just taking one of these medications has a powerful effect on the body. Imagine the effect of combining all of them. Also, Michael Jackson had a history of taking many other powerful prescription medications, most of which were again sedating and mind altering in other ways. 

If you want to get a sense of exactly how Michael Jackson sounded with these medications in his system, just listen to how he sounded on Dr. Murray’s cell phone recording. You do not need to be a doctor to understand that something was wrong here.

So, would anyone reading this then order forty more bottles of propofol for Michael Jackson? Well, that is what Dr. Murray is said to have done. He also used non-standard CPR by not doing this on a hard surface and not using both hands for compression. According to testimony today from a bodyguard who was present at the time of Jackson’s death, Dr. Murray asked if anyone knew CPR. How a cardiologist administering propofol does not know CPR has go to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.

Testimony today was also that Dr. Murray did not call 911 right away but called Jackson’s personal assistant instead, saying he had “a bad reaction.” That may be the understatement of the year. He also tried to get the assistant to remove the propofol from the room, according to testimony today. Thankfully, Dr. Murray’s license to practice medicine has already been suspended in California. However, Dr. Murray has more to worry about now than the judgment of a state licensing board.

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