Single drug key to Michael Jackson death probe

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With the investigation of Michael Jackson's death zeroing in on what drugs the pop singer took and who provided them, an upcoming toxicology report is key to whether anyone is criminally charged.

It's already known propofol, a powerful anesthetic not meant for home use, was among the drugs found in Jackson's rented mansion. The Los Angeles Police Department, working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and California attorney general's office, is trying to determine how the medications got there.

The coroner's toxicology report is expected next week. It will provide two important facts: whether propofol and any other drugs were present in the 50-year-old singer when he died June 25, and whether the levels were toxic.

"The quantity is key here," said Lawrence Kobilinsky, head of forensic science at John Jay College in New York. "Not only the presence, but the amount that has to be interpreted to see if it contributed to the death."

Kobilinsky sees propofol as "a smoking gun."

"There is no reason it should have been available to him. If it is a contributing factor to his death, then I think there would be criminal charges," he said.

The district attorney's office is in contact with police — a common practice during an investigation — but no evidence has been presented for possible charges, prosecutors' spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

Police have said very little publicly. Chief William Bratton has said detectives are scrutinising Jackson's prescription history and the doctors with whom he dealt, and haven't ruled out anything.

"Are we dealing with homicide? Are we dealing with an accidental overdose? What are we dealing with?" Bratton said last week.

Investigators obtained a search warrant and removed several bottles of propofol from Jackson's home, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. The person is not authorised to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Federal drug agents have contacted a major maker of propofol, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. Authorities asked AmerisourceBergen for sales data on propofol and its brand-name counterpart Diprivan to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals, company spokesman Michael Kilpatric told The Associated Press.

It's part of an effort to determine how the drug made it from the factory to Jackson's home. It's a mound of information, but investigators sorting through it have a critical edge: They're focusing on just a handful of doctors who hovered in Jackson's orbit, among them his longtime dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, and recently hired personal physician Conrad Murray.

Police interviewed Murray two days after Jackson's death. Authorities say he is not a suspect, though the cardiologist is a key figure in the investigation because he was with Jackson in the mansion and tried to revive him.

Edward Chernoff, Murray's lawyer, told the AP the doctor never gave or prescribed Jackson the painkillers Demerol or OxyContin, and said the doctor didn't give the pop star any drugs that contributed to his death.

Jackson had numerous medical procedures and took pain medication for years. Cherilyn Lee, a nurse who worked for Jackson but was not with him when he died, has said Jackson asked her for Diprivan, the brand-name version of propofol, to alleviate his insomnia. She refused.

Propofol and Diprivan are the drugs most widely used in the U.S. to induce general anesthesia. They can depresses breathing and lower the heart rate and blood pressure, so they are supposed to be administered by an anesthesia professional in a medical setting.

The propofol found in Jackson's home raises big questions.

"I can't think of a situation where it would be appropriate in the home setting," said Dr. David Zvara, anesthesia chairman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists issued guidance on the drug in 2004. Any doctor using propofol should have the education and training to manage anesthesia complications and "be physically present throughout the sedation," it says. Patients "should be monitored without interruption" for signs of trouble, and rescue equipment "must be immediately available."

An ordinary doctor without special training is "absolutely not" qualified to do give the drug, Zvara said.

Klein's relationship with Jackson also is being probed. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter, following up on a subpoena, went to Klein's office this week seeking medical records on Jackson. Klein's attorney, Richard Charnley, has said his client is cooperating.

In TV interviews, Klein said he sedated Jackson for past medical procedures but never gave the pop star an unnecessary dose of drugs.

To retrace Jackson's drug history, investigators have provided the California attorney general's office with the names of several doctors and several aliases Jackson is believed to have used to get prescriptions. Those names, which have not been disclosed, were run through the state's prescription monitoring database, which has more than 100 million detailed entries of prescriptions written in California for regulated narcotics, such as Demerol.

"We found some things," Attorney General Jerry Brown said.

He wouldn't give specifics, but said the information would include how many prescriptions a doctor wrote, when the prescriptions were written, how much of a drug was prescribed and the strength of the drug. Because propofol is not monitored by the DEA, it would not show up in the state's database.

The work is painstaking.

"Stars use phony names and there's more than one doctor, there's doctor shopping," Brown said. "There's a lot of people in on the act."

Source: The New Zealand Herald

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn