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Self-administration theory is “crazy”: Murray trial update

By | Published on Friday 21 October 2011

Conrad Murray

So, in what is the grand finale of the prosecution’s arguments in the Conrad Murray trial, a leading expert on the drug that killed Michael Jackson – Dr Steven Shafer – told the jury that the defence’s long running argument that the late king of pop must have self-administered the fatal shot of the medication was simply “crazy”.

Other medics previously called to testify by the prosecution – as well as criticising Murray for giving Jackson propofol, a surgical anaesthetic only usually used in hospitals, as a treatment for insomnia in a domestic setting – have also thrown doubt on the defence’s big theory, that the defendant gave the singer a safe dosage of the drug, but then the patient self-administered another fatal shot. But Shafer was the most resolute on this matter: that scenario simply wasn’t possible, he said.

At the start of the trial, the defence suggested that the singer may have, in act of desperation, swallowed a helping of propofol – a drug Jackson called “milk” and which he viewed primarily as a sleep aid – and that doing so resulted in his death. However, the defence team’s own tests on the drug showed that, if consumed orally, while not particularly good for you, it wouldn’t be fatal.

That meant they had to return to their original hypothesis, that Jackson self-injected the drug. But that theory is easier for the prosecution, and their expert witnesses, to question. Is it really possible that Jackson, coming out of a general anaesthetic, and therefore in a ‘groggy’ state, would be capable of sitting up and injecting himself with another shot of “milk”?

But Jackson was used to self-injecting medications, the defence argued. Plus, what if he’d used the syringe to pierce the IV bag that Murray had used to administer the original supposedly small dose of propofol, and which was still connected to the singer’s body? What if Jackson had pumped more of the drug into that bag, and then squeezed it hard so that the propofol moved quickly into his system? Previous witness Dr Christopher Rogers, who said the self-administration theory was “unreasonable”, did concede that scenario might be possible, even if very unlikely.

But Shafer was adamant that none of the defence’s theories stacked up. The amount of propofol in Jackson’s system after his death was simply too high, the doctor said, so even if the singer had, somehow, shortly after coming out of a deep anaesthetic-induced sleep, administered another shot – or two shots, or even several shots – it would not have caused his death.

The only explanation, Shafer concluded, is that Murray had put a sufficient supply of the drug into the IV system for it to be constantly feeding the singer’s body, and then left his patient unattended, with no medical kit monitoring his heart and breathing.

It was a pretty damning testimony for the defence, who now face the prospect of convincing a jury who have heard about a string of failings committed by Murray in the run up to Jackson’s death, and multiple other doctors describing his actions as unprecedented and hugely reckless, that the evidence against their client isn’t strong enough to convict him of involuntary manslaughter.

The case continues.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Jackson-related legal nonsense, insurance firm Lloyds Of London, who insured some of Jackson’s ill-fated ‘This Is It’ residency at The O2 in London, made another submission to the LA court this week as part of their bid to get access to Jackson’s medical records. As previously reported, Lloyds has refused to pay out on AEG Live’s insurance policy relating to the doomed live show, claiming the promoter misrepresented facts about the singer’s health, and prescription drug use, when taking out its policy. The insurer wants access to records kept by various doctors about Jackson’s health and drug use to back up its claim.

The Michael Jackson estate, although not actively linked to AEG’s insurance claim, has control over the late king of pop’s medical information, and is trying to block the insurers bid for access to it, arguing that if private records are handed over it will breach the physician-patient privilege. In the firm’s latest submission, Lloyds argues that, before he died, Jackson had given permission for medical records to be shared with the insurers, so the physician-patient privilege isn’t relevant. The insurer also argues that so much about Jackson’s health and medication use has come out in the Conrad Murray trial, much of this information is no longer confidential anyway.

A judge is due to decide whether Jackson’s former doctors will be forced to hand over his patient records at the end of next week.