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Michael Jackson and the Disappearing Doctor

June 29, 2009
By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

When a celebrity dies a sudden death and prescription drugs are part of the person’s medical history, the spotlight quickly turns on the doctor or doctors who were providing medications to the star patient.

The investigation of Anna Nicole Smith's death resulted in the indictment of her physician suppliers. In the case of Michael Jackson’s death, it is possible that we may see events unfold in an eerily similar manner.

In trying to sort out the details surrounding Michael’s death, the Los Angeles police have been firmly focused on Jackson's private live-in cardiologist, Dr. Conrad Murray.

Dr. Murray had reportedly been living with Jackson for weeks prior to his death. According to the Los Angeles Times, the doctor was with Michael when he collapsed on June 25. It was Dr. Murray who was performing CPR when paramedics arrived at the star’s home.

The caller on the 911 recording can be heard referring to a “doctor” who was present.

“Did anybody witness what happened?” the dispatcher asked.

“Uh no. Just the doctor, sir. The doctor has been the only one here,” the caller replied.

Evidently, Dr. Murray briefly disappeared after the singer was pronounced dead. TMZ reported that the police were “looking for a doctor who lived at Michael Jackson's home” and he was “nowhere to be found.”

However, the physician is now cooperating with investigators, and the LAPD have conducted at least two interviews with him.

It is highly unusual, to say the least, for a doctor to flee the scene when a patient is in distress, loses consciousness, or worst of all, expires. The police have been measured in their public statements, but family members are purportedly trying to figure out the reasons for the doctor’s disappearance.

The L.A. police towed away a BMW that had Texas plates, which was registered to Susan Rush. The car was impounded for further investigation. It turns out that Rush is Murray's sister and has also been employed at one of his clinics.

The doctor has submitted himself to the police for questioning. However, the police are saying that Dr. Murray is not under criminal investigation but may provide information that may be useful, along with toxicology results, in determining Jackson’s cause of death.

Dr. Murray is familiar with the Los Angeles area. He did his internship and residency at Loma Linda University, a school located near the City of Angels. He came back to the Southern California vicinity to complete a fellowship at the Foundation for Cardiovascular Medicine in San Diego.

Dr. Murray was practicing medicine in California, Nevada and Texas and lives in a gated community in the suburbs of Las Vegas. He gave up a medical practice to work for Jackson.

According to a letter that was obtained by TMZ, Murray wrote to his patients that he was no longer going to practice medicine because of a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” It turned out that his undisclosed opportunity was a job as Jackson's live-in physician and upcoming tour doctor.

Dr. Murray may have been in need of the salary that the superstar was offering. It appears as though the doctor had quite a few financial troubles. Records reveal that there are $400,000 in judgments against his Nevada medical practice, Global Cardiovascular Associates, with two other cases pending. There is also a $3,700 judgment for failure to pay child support and several tax liens were filed against the doctor in California and Arizona between 1993 and 2003.

The Texas State Board of Medical Examiners Web site indicates that there were no complaints filed against Dr. Murray during his years as a licensed cardiologist in that state.

The concert promoter for Michael’s London comeback tour, AEG Live, hired Dr. Murray. AEG Chief Executive Randy Phillips told The Los Angeles Times that Jackson had “insisted emphatically” on Dr. Murray's recruitment.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation and toxicology results, it will come as no surprise if some of the same legal actions that have accompanied the death of other famous celebrities also come to fruition in the Jackson case.

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Copyright © 2009
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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