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Dr Klein’s Demerol could have caused Jackson’s insomnia: Murray trial update

By | Published on Friday 14 October 2011

Conrad Murray

An expert in sleep medicine confirmed to the court hearing the Conrad Murray manslaughter trial yesterday that Jackson had been taking the painkiller Demerol, and that that could have been the cause of his acute insomnia. Dr Nader Kamangar also conceded that the idea that propofol be used to cure severe insomnia was not totally new, but added that the method was unproven, and certainly should not have been used in a domestic setting.

Murray, of course, is accused of causing the death of Michael Jackson by negligently administering the surgical anaesthetic propofol as a cure for insomnia. Murray’s defence argue that the singer most likely administered the fatal shot of the drug himself. They have also been keen to show that using propofol to induce sleep, while unusual, isn’t totally unheard of, that their client didn’t introduce Jackson to propofol as sleep aid anyway, and that he was actually trying to wean his patient off the drug.

They also claim that another doctor seen by Jackson regularly, dermatologist Dr Arnold Klein, was negligently prescribing the singer the Demerol that likely caused the acute insomnia that Murray was trying to cure, and that Klein should therefore also be partly liable for the late king of pop’s untimely demise. Judge Michael Pastor has refused the defence’s application to call Klein as a witness – ruling his testimony would not be sufficiently relevant – but the other doctor’s alleged role was mentioned by defence attorneys during their opening remarks, and again by Murray himself in a police interview, a recording of which was played in court this week.

One of the prosecution’s final witnesses, Kamangar’s testimony was most interesting when being questioned by defence lawyers. The sleep expert confirmed that Michael Jackson’s records showed he had been receiving Demerol from Dr Klein, adding: “I usually avoid using Demerol [with my patients, because] it can actually activate someone, make them more hyper or excited, create more stimulation”.

Could it cause insomnia, defence attorney Michael Flanagan asked. “It certainly can,” Kamangar replied. Was Jackson addicted to Dermerol? Kamangar said he did not have enough information to answer that question.

Moving on Flanagan asked Kamangar about a Chinese study in 2010 which looked into the use of propofol to induce sleep where patients suffered from acute insomnia. Didn’t that survey show that propofol helped some patients, the lawyer asked. Yes, Kamangar said, but it was a very experimental survey and did not in itself justify using the drug as a sleep aid, even in a hospital, and certainly not in a patient’s home. According to Reuters, the doctor concluded: “[In that report], even the authors in the end explain that this is just a very preliminary experiment and it needs way more studies to even imagine using this drug for [insomnia]”.

The case continues.