Dr. Conrad Murray Gets Away With Murder

by John M. Curtis at The Examiner

June 14 –

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor ruled that he could not further restrict the doctor responsible for “King of Pop” Michael Jackson’s June 25, 2009 death of a trade-named Diprivan or generic propofol overdose, a widely used short-acting anesthesia drug. When the Los Angeles County Coroner found Aug. 24, 2009 that Jackson’s death was due to a propofol overdose, Murray was immediately implicated. It was no secret that Murray treated the 50-year-old entertainer for chronic insomnia while he prepared for a new British tour. Without any medical precedent and without any training in anesthesia, Murray set up a makeshift operating room in Jackson’s Bel-Air home, where the 57-year-old Grenada-born physician installed an intravenous drip to treat Jackson. When Murray returned to Jackson’s bedroom around 11:00 a.m., he found him not breathing. From the time Murray found Jackson not breathing, the facts become dicey. Murray insists he administered CPR for around one-hour, before he called for help in Jackson’s home, finally calling 911. Why Murray didn’t call 911 immediately is anyone’s guess. Los Angeles County Fire Dept. paramedics arrived at Jackson’s home at around 12:24 p.m., performing CPR for another 42 minutes before transporting Jackson to the ER at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center at 1:14 p.m. Reports from paramedics indicated that Jackson was non-responsive in the ambulance. When he arrived at the ER, a team of ER doctors and nurses worked on Jackson for another hour or so before pronouncing him dead at 2:26 p.m. What’s so puzzling is why a licensed physician, like Murray, wouldn’t have urgently called 911, rather than the lengthy delay before calling paramedics.

After an eight-month delay, Los Angeles County District Atty. Steve Cooley finally charged Murray with one count of involuntary manslaughter Feb. 8, posting a $75,000 bail bond. On Feb. 15, the California Medical Board restricted Murray from prescribing sedative medications, including the anesthetic propofol responsible for Jackson’s death. Following the coroner’s report about Jackson’s propofol overdose, California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, now a gubernatorial candidate, urged the Medical Board to revoke Murray’s license, citing a danger to the health, safety and welfare of consumers. When Murray decided, without specialized training or certification in anesthesiology, to treat Jackson with propofol for insomnia he engaged in egregious malpractice. No licensed physician can invent their own treatment, experiment on patients and get away with murder.

California’s Medical Board should have revoked Murray’s license Feb. 15, once the coroner found that he overdosed Jackson on propofol. Today’s hearing in Judge Pastor’s courtroom shows how dangerous individuals, especially licensed professionals, slip through the cracks. “I simply don’t have the ability to revisit the actions one of my colleagues,” said Pastor, reluctant to take any further action on Murray’s license. It’s up to the Medical Board, not trial court judges, to restrict, suspend and revoke professional licenses. LA County District Atty. Steve Cooley couldn’t find any grounds for charging Murray with anything more than involuntary manslaughter, the same charge if you accidentally ran over a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Cooley surely knew that Murray deliberately, with careful planning, poked Jackson’s vein with his IV and administered the lethal dose of propofol.

Murray’s defense attorneys argued that it would be unduly harmful to Murray’s financial condition to revoke his medical license. Murray had no problem wrecking Michael Jackson’s earning potential, after the 50-year-old singer attempted a midlife comeback, successfully rehearsing the night before his death at Staples Center for his new British concert tour. Whether Cooley charged Murray with involuntary manslaughter or not, Jackson died at Murray’s inept hands, unfit to practice medicine. When he decided to invent a risky medical procedure to treat Jackson’s insomnia, he flagrantly abused his privilege and responsibility of practicing medicine. Murray’s actions, resulting in Jackson’s death, were far more egregious than simply “involuntary manslaughter.” Murray knowingly devised a dangerous method of treating insomnia and caused the pop singer’s death.

California’s Medical Board and the Los Angeles County District Attorney dropped the ball, failing to revoke Murray’s medical license and properly charge him with voluntary manslaughter. There was nothing “involuntary” about a licensed physician devising an outrageously risky procedure for insomnia and killing his patient. Murray may not have “intended” to kill Jackson but his gross negligence caused his death. No licensing board can afford to have professionals with such poor judgment practicing in any regulated field. Contrary to Judge Pastor’s ruling, he could have put a restraining order on Murray’s ability to practice medicine. Murray could have appealed, allowing a more complete review of his dangerous conduct. Letting Murray practice medicine endangers consumers. California’s Medical Board must do what the DA and courts apparently can’t do.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.