Michael Jackson a Drug Addict, AEG Claims in Trial
Renowned performer Michael Jackson was a drug addict, a medical expert testifying for concert promotion company AEG Live claimed during his wrongful death trial last week.
“Michael Jackson’s addiction was quite extensive and I have very little doubt that his pleasure-reward pathways had been hijacked and he suffered from addiction,” Dr. Petros Levounis said during last week’s action in the trial’s 18th week.
Levounis based his assertion on Jackson’s affinity for opioid painkillers, which he reportedly began using regularly after his scalp was severely burned while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984. Jackson put himself in rehab in 1993 to try to curb his dependence on the meds.
As hopped up as Jackson might have been, however, the drug at issue in the trial is not a painkiller but rather an anesthetic called propofol, which Levounis did not address in regard to addiction. The jury has heard from several other medical professionals who said that Jackson had asked them for propofol.
The anesthetic ultimately caused the famous singer’s death when his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, administered an overdose to him in 2009. Within months, Murray will be released from prison about halfway through a four-year sentence for manslaughter, while Jackson’s family has sued AEG claiming the company negligently hired, retained or supervised the infamous doctor.
The Jackson lawyers tried last week to argue that they should be able to tack on another negligence claim against AEG based on the company ignoring evidence of the pop star’s deterioration, but the judge nixed their request.
AEG attorneys are arguing that Jackson personally picked Murray to be his doctor and that he was responsible for his own medical care.
Testimony by medical professionals has been key to AEG’s defense. Dental anesthesiologist Christine Quinn testified last week that Jackson asked her for propofol in 1998 or 1999 so he could go to sleep. And a a nurse practitioner, Cherilyn Lee, said he asked the same of her a decade later, shortly before his death. Lee claims she tried to warn Jackson against using propofol at home, but he replied “You don’t understand. Doctors said it’s OK.”
Another issue that has come up has been the close and perhaps inappropriately friendly relationships Jackson had with Murray and other medical professionals. One doctor was best man at his wedding, others showed up at his house to socialize and one spent a Christmas holiday with the star. Murray in particular had unusual access to Jackson and even appeared to be serving as his go-between and spokesperson, a plastic surgeon testified.
Levounis addressed the close relationships during his testimony. “A very close friendship between an addicted patient and a doctor is problematic,” he told the jury. “It makes it much easier for a patient to ask for drugs and it makes it more difficult for a provider to resist.”