Jacksons vs. AEG trial. THE VERDICT IS IN. OVERVIEW OF THE BATTLEFIELD
At first we thought that the verdict was simply a bad joke. But now we realize that the jurors were serious when they called Murray ‘fit and competent’ though it was this doctor who actually killed Michael Jackson and was sent to jail for this crime.
The civil jury’s verdict admitted that AEG hired Murray, but stated that Murray was competent for the work he was hired for, so in the opinion of the present jury there was no negligence on anyone’s part – Murray was asked for propofol by his patient and this resulted in an accident as poor Murray simply didn’t know “how to” because he wasn’t hired for this job.
So the latest version of Michael’s death is that no one is to blame for it, especially AEG as ‘there was no way they could know about it’, and even Murray is not to blame now as Michael asked for propofol himself and in all other aspects except propofol Murray was ‘competent and fit’. The AEG lawyers describe it as ‘simply a tragedy’ and by this interpretation make a generous gesture in Michael’s direction kindly releasing him of any guilt too. No one is to blame, it just happened, you know.
After we got over the first shock of the jury’s explanations the second impression was that for the gullible public this verson could even pass for the truth, if it were not for the two absurdities.
The first absurdity is that this jury finds Murray competent though the previous jury found him criminally negligent and these two concepts look a little contradictory even to the most dumb.
And the second absurdity is that the present jurors, while slightly wincing at Murray’s poor ethics, explain that the ethical aspect was not even considered because “no one asked them a question about it” and since it was not on the list of the jury’s instructions everything was to be done “in strict accordance with the letter of the law”.
This is said in full seriousness and with a straight face and implies that if the judge had added the word “ethical” to the question “Was Dr. Conrad Murray fit and competent for the job he was hired for?” the jury’s answer would have been different. And without this word the jury found themselves facing a terrible dilemma and were helpless and lost like a flock of sheep without their guardian dog.
After several hours of racking their brains and several lunches consumed they finally said “No” to a question of Murray’s incompetence thus asserting his competence, ending the trial and setting new standards for the medical community. Since time immemorial doctors have been guided by the Hippocratic oath and now they have a new interesting concept from the AEG jury which says that even if a doctor killed his patient through gross negligence he is still good, fit and competent, and ethics are an outside matter which have nothing to do with the problem. This way the jurors actually set a precedent which some criminal doctors will surely appreciate.
To test yourself whether ethics can be snatched away from the concept of a medical doctor per se, all you need to do is imagine a notice on the door of a doctor’s office – “Dr. X is competent and fit but has no respect for medical ethics” and you will immediately understand that no one will ever entrust him with their health as an unethical doctor will not hesitate to ruin it or is probably even a sadist who will do deliberate harm using his competence and skills.
Doctors of this kind do exist, and the whole world regards them as criminals, and it is only for the jury in the AEG case that this type of doctor is okay.
Evidently feeling a little uneasy about what they did the jurors dealt with this minor discrepancy by clarifying that Murray was competent in doing the job he was hired for (which was general care to his patient), and for propofol he wasn’t hired, so it was okay that there he was incompetent and killed his patient. Of course he should have never agreed to administer it, but this is an ethical problem and ethics is not part of a doctor’s job as this jury has already explained to us.
Following the jury’s lead the excited media took the matter further and though the verdict didn’t say it declared the deceased Michael Jackson guilty of his own death – “he was an adult and had personal responsibility” and should have never asked for propofol.
If you listen to these poeple you will get the impression that Michael was the only adult in this company while Murray was a little kid who simply fell under the spell of a villain, and AEG was also a naïve little thing who never guessed to check up what this kid in their employement was actually up to.
To help the jury and everyone realize prior to the start of jury deliberations that AEG executives aren’t responsible for anything at all – even for the extreme pressure they exercised on their doctor employee by emails like “We want to remind him that it is AEG, not MJ, who is paying his salary. We want to remind him what is expected of him” – at the very last minute of the trial the judge Yvette Palazuelos released Paul Gongaware and Randy Phillips of any personal responsibility whatsoever thus sending the jurors a clear signal on the outline of their future verdict. Judging by the result this signal was not lost on these perceptive people.
And in addition to all that it has also become a tradition now that some Michael Jackson’s fans are the first to rush and advocate for AEG and explain how perfectly correct the jury was in exonerating them even of a little thing like negligence in hiring Murray which was all Katherine Jackson’s lawsuit was all about. Michael Jackson died while in the general care of this AEG employee, but it is perfectly okay as “everything was in accordance with the rules”.
Here is a typical quote from a fan forum:
Some of you either didn’t follow the trial or you didn’t even bother reading the jury instructions.
As per the contract between Murray, AEG, and Michael, Conrad Murray was hired for GENERAL CARE. He was NOT hired to administer Propofol. Administering Propofol does not fall under general care, therefore, Murray was carrying out actions that went beyond the duties he was actually hired for at the time he was hired.
Somebody explained it perfectly on twitter. It would be like hiring a driver to drive a bus, but if said drive instead flies a plane and crashes, you cannot hold the company who hired him liable. He was not hired to fly a plane, he was hired to drive.
Before becoming Michael’s doctor, Murray had an impeccable record as a doctor and was a highly regarded cardiologist. A credit check cannot determine somebody’s ethics or abilities to behave morally. To say his debt should’ve indicated he would behave in an unethical and criminally negligent manner would mean ANYBODY who is in debt is potentially just a criminal waiting to strike.
The jury foreman made it clear…they do believe Murray was competent and fit to carry out the duty of GENERAL CARE. However, had the question been with regards to ethics, he stressed the verdict could’ve been different because the jury did not believe Murray was ethical.
The foreman said there was no evidence presented in the trial to show or prove that AEG knew or should’ve known Murray would be a risk to others, especially since Katherine’s attorneys failed to prove that AEG knew about Murray administering Propofol.
It all came down to the jury instructions and if you read them, you’ll see that the jury came to the appropriate decision based on LAWS, not emotions as Katherine’s attorneys were hoping. And regardless of conspiracy nuts trying to accuse Judge Palazuelos of setting up the jury instructions to facilitate AEG’s victory, please remember, the jury instructions were agreed upon by both Katherine’s attorneys AND AEG’s attorneys.
Since the above fan appeals to laws and scorns at “conspiracy nuts” like us, our conclusions should also be based on the jury instructions and other documents which is actually our usual routine as this is what we always do. And the first thing we need to determine is whether the jury was right in claiming that Dr. Murray was competent in doing the job he was hired for – which was the general care of his patient.
GENERAL CARE IN MURRAY’S INTERPRETATION
The infamous paragraph of AEG’s contract for Murray which says that he was to provide services reasonably requested by the Artist from time to time only (!) also says that the scope of his services was “to provide general medical care to the Artist to be administered professionally and with the greatest degree of care to be expected from similarly situated member in the medical field”.
It also added that “such services shall include tending to the Artist’s general medical needs and assisting and treating the Artist in the case of a medical emergency”.
General care is a very broad term but usually it is the scope of services rendered by general practitioners or internists. Whatever the name for this medical specialty is sources define it as “promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments.”
Besides being a cardiologist Murray probably considered himself an internist or general practitioner. This point though does not look like an impediment as cardiologists are a step higher and are actually internists specializing in cardiology. The only exception to it would be if Murray were a heart surgeon which would be a counter indication to rendering general care as internists are taught to people conservatively:
- Internal medicine or general medicine is the medical specialty dealing with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases. Physicians specializing in internal medicine are called internists, or physicians. Internists are especially skilled in the management of patients who have undifferentiated or multi-system disease processes. Internists care for hospitalized and ambulatory patients and may play a major role in teaching and research.
- General practitioners assess and treat general medical conditions and issues. They diagnose conditions, but normally are able to refer patients with specific conditions to specialists to deal with their conditions.
So the very general idea of Murray’s job was to diagnose and treat a broad range of illnesses and refer his patient to a specialist if he was unable to cope with the problem himself, and Michael Jackson’s medical needs like insomnia, loss of weight, dehydration after rehearsals and fatigue were well within this scope and were to become the matter of everyday care and concern of Dr. Murray.
However judging by Michael’s steady deterioration of health and the fatal result Dr. Murray dealt with those medical problems absolutely inadequately.
EPISODE 1. Nutrition
Murray did not pay proper attention even to a grave sign like Michael’s quick loss of weight. Since he had an everyday opportunity to check up Michael’s condition before his sleep, there was absolutely no chance for him to overlook the fact that Michael was turning skeletal – so skeletal that when Michael Bush saw Michael undressing on June 19th he noticed the heartbeat under his skin!
Bush saw it just once and was utterly shattered by the sight, but where was Dr. Murray all this time? What steps did Murray take to halt the process of Michael’s speedy loss of weight? None at all. At one point he did promise to make some special protein shakes but he never did and never even asked what kind of food his chef Kai Chase was cooking for him.
This fact surprised her so much that she made a note of it in her testimony at the trial:
Q. Now, let me ask you, in June, did you ever have conversations with Dr. Murray at any time in which you discussed any instructions from him regarding the nutrition or Mr. Jackson?
A. No, and I thought that was quite strange.
A. Well, for a doctor to have a patient there, and you don’t consult with their chef of eating habits or, you know, nutrition? It was quite strange to me.
Q. Did you ever ask him if there was anything you should be doing?
A. I’d asked him a couple of times, but his answer to me would always be, “You can fix him
Q. Okay. And in the time period that you were there, was there ever nutritionist at the house?
Q. And in the time period that you were there, did Dr. Murray ever make a protein shake?
Ms. Stebbins: Objection, lacks foundation as to whether Dr. Murray ever made a protein shake. She can say whether she saw one.
Q. I said in the time period that you were there, did you ever see Dr. Murray make a protein shake in your presence?
A. No, I never.
Q. Did Dr. Murray ever request that you make any special type of protein shake?
So did Murray act as a fit and competent doctor in dealing with Michael’s dramatic loss of weight? Absolutely not!
Then why are the jurors of so high regard of Murray if he neglected the most basic needs of his patient and when the medical problem was obvious even to those not in the medical profession?
EPISODE 2. Sick leave
From the little this trial revealed of Conrad Murray’s general care for MJ we nevertheless learned that in the first decade of June he was concerned about Michael’s health bad enough to give him a sick leave, however the sick leave was quickly withdrawn as soon as Paul Gongaware reminded Murray of who was paying his salary and “what was expected of him” (the wording makes it obvious that Michael Jackson’s health wasn’t one of their expectations and was not on the AEG priority list).
We know that Murray gave in to the AEG pressure and withdrew the sick leave given to Michael on Saturday 13th as the very next Monday June 15th Michael had to attend rehearsals despite his obviously ill condition. Karen Faye was aghast but described Michael’s demeanor as stoic and this stoicism went on until June 18th when he came to a rehearsal very late, visibly shaken from another of those riot meetings arranged for him by AEG and their doctor employee.
Does the story with the sick leave impress you as Conrad Murray duly fulfilling his obligations of general care for Michael Jackson and professionally “tending to his general medical needs”? Why am I sure that it doesn’t?
Was his decision competent? No. Was it ethical? Absolutely not! So now you see that the two concepts are inseparable and one cannot go without the other?
EPISODE 3. Emergency
When Michael’s health deteriorated so badly that he could no longer make a spin on stage for fear of injuring or embarrassing himself (according to Bugzy’s email) and he started “rambling and obsessing” and his body temperature became icy cold as was noted by almost everyone on June 19th, Michael’s medical condition could already be qualified as a medical emergency. This condition demanded Dr. Murray’s immediate attention as one of his responsibilities under the AEG agreement was to “assist and treat the Artist in case of a medical emergency”.
On June 19th Michael was indeed so bad that even Ortega who had been previously pressing him for rehearsals fell into a panic, and began to cry out for help and a good therapeutist. He also wondered why there was no one (for example, Murray) around Michael to offer him at least a cup of hot tea. The SOS emails from several people started bombarding Randy Phillips as they actually saw with their own eyes that Michael was dying.
Any of us would regard the above situation as a grave medical emergency requiring hospitalization or at least urgent qualified help, but Conrad Murray did nothing of the kind and remained unperturbed. Instead he reprimanded Ortega for playing an amateur physician and arrogantly demanded that Michael’s treatment should be left solely to him as a result of which only five days later Michael Jackson was dead.
Conrad Murray’s public lashing of Ortega took place in the presence of Randy Phillips who was so impressed by the doctor’s performance that he called it “fantastic”.
Though fantastic in the eyes of his employer the question is whether the above was compatible with the standards of general care or whether Murray’s conduct was in line at least with his own contract with AEG requiring him to administer “general medical care to the Artist professionally and with the greatest degree of care to be expected from similarly situated member in the medical field”?
Would any other doctor behave the way Murray did in a similar situation? No, never! Then why did the jury award Murray the title of being “fit and competent” even after seeing the evidence of all those atrocities at the trial? How could the jurors overlook so flagrant a manifestation of Murray’s incompetence and criminal negligence as his behavior on June 20th?
Or look at it from another angle – what grounds do the jurors have for calling Murray ‘competent and fit’? Only the fact that he had a license and had no claims from his patients?
But Murray wasn’t even board certified as a cardiologist as Dr. Alon Steinberg said at Murray’s trial and his license had been suspended in two states (I hear it was Nevada and Texas, but this requires a further check-up).
As to the absence of the patients’ complaints I clearly remember a patient testifying against Murray and threatening him with a lawsuit. He said that Conrad Murray operated on his heart and then abandoned him as he took up a job with Michael Jackson and never even referred him to anyone else leaving him with no follow-up medical help. Dr. Murray reappeared on his horizon only when the patient threatened to sue him and this was one of the long calls Murray made right at the time when Michael was dying.
Even the above three episodes show that Murray was totally unfit as a general practitioner for Michael Jackson – he was largerly indifferent to his patient and too fearful of his employees, arrogant to those who questioned his skills and what’s even more important, totally unqualified to treat the only serious illness Michael had – his insomnia.
And Michael was not just an ‘ordinary’ patient. He had a complex history of auto-immune diseases and after-effects from previous treatments and therefore required only the best and most competent of doctors.
Murray surely wasn’t one of them, but why do the jurors in this trial still insist that he was competent for this job? They have absolutely no grounds for it, especially since the sentence at the criminal trial was quite eloquent about it!
WHAT THE LAW SAYS ABOUT MURRAY
If these episodes are not convincing enough to you let us look at what the law says about Murray as a doctor. Here is a well-informed opinion of Judge Michael Pastor from his closing statement at Murray’s trial:
Dr. Murray abandoned his patient who was trusting him. His patient was vulnerable under certain circumstances having been administered potentially dangerous drugs by his medical provider. Dr. Murray repeatedly lied engaged in deceitful misconduct and endeavored to cover up his transgressions. He violated the trust of the medical community, of his colleagues, and of his patient and he has absolutely no sense of remorse, absolutely no sense of fault, and is and remains dangerous…. He is a shame to the medical community.
When answering questions after Murray’s trial Dr. Steven Shafer, the leading US anesthesiologist who proved Murray’s guilt, characterized Murray as follows:
Murray was grossly reckless. For medical error to be manslaughter requires that the physician be reckless in giving care. Thus, as I understand the law, the finding of manslaughter by the jury is a finding of recklessness. That was my conclusion after reviewing the records. The complete lack of monitoring, backup, and training were egregious violations of care. The lies to the paramedics and the physicians at UCLA were unconscionable, as was failure to obtain informed consent and keep records. Conrad Murray’s behavior was reckless, cavalier, and self-serving. Judge Pastor summed it up well in his final comments at Murray’s sentencing.
In his testimony Dr. Shafer named 17 egregious deviations from standard medical care out of which at least half were general deviations in no way connected with propofol. This is important as it points to Murray’s gross incompetence and negligence even in the area of general care where the present jury found Murray perfectly okay.
Here is a reminder of some of those deviations from my then post about Dr. Shafer with a few of his very valuable comments:
Lack of a blood pressure cuff is another egregious violation.
Considering that Michael Jackson was dehydrated from strenuous exercise (lacking enough liquid in his system) his blood pressure had a tendency to be low. Dr. Shafer explained the phenomenon which takes place when the blood pressure drops – the body “closes” legs and hands and that is why they feel cold, and preferentially sends the blood to vital organs only – like the heart, for example.
Failure to make records is an egregious and unconscionable violation.
Dr. Shafer stressed it again and again that keeping the records was not optional. It is part of the general care of the patient. The records were indispensable as in case another doctor were to treat the patient he should have the full medical history (his lab results, his reaction to this or that medication, duration of certain drugs administered, the effect they had, etc.). Medical records are indispensable for making a referral to another doctor. After all, the state which licenses doctors is responsible for the care the doctor provides to patients and has the right to demand their records too.
And if he saw that Michael was dehydrated as he was sweating a lot during exercise – why didn’t he measure his blood pressure and pulse? And he didn’t do as little as a simple recording of the vital signs! Any physician does that, while Murray did not. Lack of a regular physical assessment is another serious departure from the standard of care and coupled with the failure to keep records is so profound a violation that Dr. Shafer could hardly find a word to describe it. He said it had no excuse.
Failure to have a proper doctor-patient relationship is an egregious violation
This relationship is built on the foundation that the doctor will always put the patient’s interests first. It doesn’t mean doing what he asks of – it means doing what is right for the patient and acting in his best interests. If the patient requests something foolish or dangerous, it is a doctor’s obligation to use medical judgment and say ”no”.
Dr. Shafer says that if Murray had acted as a doctor he would have referred Michael Jackson to sleep disorder specialists for evaluation and therapy.
In fact even Kenny Ortega saw the need for Michael to be evaluated by a qualified therapist – only no one paid attention to his words, including Conrad Murray.
And it is noteworthy that Kenny Ortega did not approach Murray with this request – no, he approached Randy Phillips with it! This alone shows who the real master of the situation was. However a true doctor will never bend to anyone’s orders and will be guided by nothing else but medical judgment and the oath of Hippocrates he takes to observe the code of medical ethics.
Dr. Shafer says that Murray’s unwillingness to say “no” and his failure to refer Michael to a proper specialist directly resulted in Michael Jackson’s death. And I would add to that package Murray’s full willingness to say “yes” to those in whose real employment he was.
When Walgren asked, “And will being on the phone even in the general vicinity of the patient be an independent egregious violation?” Dr. Shafer said that it was a setup of disaster.
“The patient is receiving IV drugs and the doctor is not focused on the patient – instead he is talking on the cell phone, sending text messages, answering emails. You cannot multitask like this, even if you are a couple of feet away, particularly with no monitors in place and no alarms.
The failure to call 911 was another of those outrageous, egregious violations.
Dr. Shafer said that there is nothing that has a higher priority than calling 911.
Conrad Murray was expected to immediately assess the situation and then call 911. The assessment would include checking the pulse and looking for signs of responsiveness (you literally shake the patient) – so it takes a matter of seconds to make an assessment. David Walgren assumed that Murray became aware of Michael Jackson’s condition at around noon and the delay in calling 911 was something like 20 minutes. How would Dr. Shafer assess that Dr. Murray called Michael Amir Williams at 12.12, left a voicemail message to him and then had the bodyguard Alvarez make a 911 call at 12.20?
Dr. Shafer said: “That is so egregious that I actually find it difficult to comprehend. You have a patient who had a respiratory arrest and you call and leave a voice message? It is just inconceivable. A physician would not do that…. I almost don’t know what to say. It is completely and utterly inexcusable”.
Walgren asked, “And how effective is a one-handed compression on the bed?”
Dr. Shafer said, “Not at all”. When you do chest compressions on the bed the patient just sinks into the cushions. You have to push the force against the spine and squeeze the heart. It should go directly down and with one hand it is difficult to do it in the right direction. So it is always two hands, pushing straight down and a patient being on a hard surface.
However based on Murray’s own words that when he returned Michael had a thread pulse, the issue here was not that Michael’s heart had stopped – the issue was that he stopped breathing and because of that oxygen was running out of his lungs. His heart only stopped because it was starved of oxygen. In the presence of a pulse the heart doesn’t need to be compressed – what you need to do is get oxygen into the lungs.
So doing PCR in those circumstances was even harmful, however Dr. Murray did that.
A mouth-to-mouth resuscitation done by Murray to resuscitate his patient was a serious violation too.
Dr. Shafer says that if nothing else is available a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is the only alternative. But for a health-care provider the need to resort to it means the admission of a failure to have the necessary resuscitation equipment available. The mask would have been much more efficient – because when you breathe into a patient it is your expired air. The usual level of oxygen there is no more than 20%. And if he had ventilated Michael’s lungs with oxygen he would be alive now.
In his interview with the police Murray described raising Michael’s legs. This was a minor violation as Dr. Shafer said it was just a waste of time. You raise a person’s legs if you believe you need more blood going into the heart, but since Michael’s heart was beating anyway Dr. Shafer said he didn’t know why Murray had done it – he needed oxygen and not raising his legs!
It shows that Dr. Murray was clueless as to what to do.
Walgren asked – what is polypharmacy? Dr. Shafer said that it is administering many drugs at once.
Walgren enumerated the drugs Conrad Murray administered that night – Lorazepam, Diazepam (Valium), Midazolam as well as Propofol. “Is it polypharmacy?” “Absolutely”, said Dr. Shafer. He shook his head and said that it didn’t make any sense. Lorazepam and Midazolam are very similar drugs and from the perspective of the brain they are nearly identical. The molecules do exactly the same thing in the brain. The only difference is how long they hang around for.
Dr. Shafer does not see any rationale for switching between Lorazepam and Midazolam in a patient who is having trouble falling asleep. So the therapy that was used does not suggest any understanding of these drugs…. Dr. Shafer said, “We don’t go willy-nilly – let’s give him more Lorazepam, let’s give him more Midazolam”. The care of the polypharmacy in this case suggests that it was done without any real understanding of the drugs being used, how they worked and how they interacted. And this of itself was a serious violation of the standard of care.
The fact that Murray did not admit to the paramedics and the UCLA emergency room doctors that he had given propofol is another egregious deviation from the standard of care.
When a person’s life hangs in the balance as it did to withhold information is inexcusable. In addition to that he mischaracterized it as a witnessed arrest which is very different from what it was. A witnessed arrest is usually not the arrest for lack of breathing – it is something like a heart attack. You see the person and suddenly he is down and you realize that something catastrophic has happened.
When a patient goes into an arrest you have only seconds to go one way or the other. The paramedics were not given the information to choose a treatment path that was appropriate for what had happened.
In a scenario when the patient is transferred from one physician to another one it is a professional, ethical and moral obligation to tell the truth. The doctor is obliged to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Anything less than the truth is inexcusable. And this is another egregious and unconscionable violation of the standard of care.
Dr. Shafer stressed again that the doctor-patient relationship is built on trust and the patient’s interest always going ahead of the doctor’s interests. By withholding such information you violate this trust. “When it is withheld from the people who are trying to save the life of your patient you violated that trust in ways that are so foreign to me that I truly have trouble of conceiving it”. The patient has a right to expect the doctor to be honest.
Dr. Shafer looked very sad when he was saying all that because it clearly means to him that Conrad Murray is ignorant, incompetent and totally unprofessional.
All in all Dr. Shafer described 17 egregious violations of the standard of care out of which 4 were also unethical and unconscionable.
Dr. Shafer stressed that each of those violations individually was likely or should have been expected to result in death. And all those risks were completely foreseeable too.
Answering Walgren’s question the doctor focused once again on the fundamental principles of a doctor-patient relationship. He said that this relationship goes back down to the dawn of civilization. Doctors are permitted to know the most private details of a person’s body and of a person’s life. Doctors are permitted to give very powerful drugs that might harm or kill a patient, and are permitted to cut into a patient’s body to remove a cancer or repair an organ or replace a knee.
Doctors are allowed to do these things because they give a Hippocratic oath which dates back to 500 BC. It says: “In every house in which I come I will enter only for the good of my patients”, because at the core of a doctor-patient relationship is the principle that you put the patient first. This is the cornerstone of this relationship. It is because you put the patient first that you are entrusted with surgery, drugs and intimate knowledge of the patient, said Dr. Shafer.
The Geneva Declaration says: “The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration”. Columbia University says: “We put patients first”.
And when Dr. Murray agreed to treat Michael Jackson with propofol and disregarded his patient’s interests in so many ways Dr. Shafer said that Dr. Murray put himself first – not Michael Jackson.
I hope that Dr. Shafer’s words will be a good reminder for the jurors in the AEG case what the law already said on the subject of Conrad Murray’s competence and ethics, so there was no need for them to introduce any novelties here. And the burden of proof in a criminal trial is much higher than the one in civil cases so if Murray was found guilty at a criminal trial it is not in the power of the civil jurors to negate their verdict and pronounce Murray competent in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the opposite.
These jurors simply closed their eyes to all the evidence in the case and are trying to create the impression that Murray was competent, because the admission of his incompetence would mean that AEG hired an incompetent doctor and would have to bear responsibility for it. However this scenario was for some reason unacceptable to the jurors, so Murray had to be found competent and this is why they are now getting out of their way to prove the impossible.
VERDICT: AEG HIRED MURRAY
However despite all their demagogy over Murray’s competence the main question at the AEG trial was “Who hired Murray?” and it was given a Yes answer even by this highly suspect jury.
From the very start of it “Who hired Murray?” was the main intrigue of this trial. In their Overview of the Case the jury instructions did not limit the answer to hiring Murray only, but included there “retaining” and “supervision” too, so a Yes answer to “hiring” may mean that AEG was also found responsible for retaining and supervising Murray:
- Plaintiffs claims that the defendants are liable for the death of Michael Jackson because they negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Contrad Murray… The defendants deny they hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray. The defendants also deny that they were negligent.
But if the jury found that it was AEG who hired Murray, this means that Murray was the same type of an employee as the tour pyrotechnics, for example, for whose negligence (burning someone) AEG would be obliged to bear full responsibility in case of an accident.
Similarly they should bear responsibility for Murray’s negligence in handling Michael Jackson’s health as Murray was in their direct employment and not only at the moment of Michael’s death but during the whole time of his general care for MJ under his contract – and that was more than 8 weeks while Michael’s health was slowly declining.
Sceptics will say that Michael died of propofol over which no one could have any control. However even though the immediate cause of death was indeed propofol his steady health deterioration wasn’t due to propofol, but was due to his insomnia and lack of sleep which were well within the scope of Murray’s general care and responsibility.
Now I am sure of it even more than ever, because when looking through Dr. Shafer’s notes I found his observation that the ice-cold temperature of Michael’s body could not be in any way connected with propofol:
- Question: On June 19 and 20 when Michael was sick at the rehearsals, he called Cherilyn Lee. He asked her why half of his body was cold and the other half was warm.
- Dr. Shafer: That wouldn’t be a side effect of propofol. I don’t know what makes half your body warm, and half cold, but propofol doesn’t do that. It could be that he simply had a virus. There are some symptoms of withdrawal from sedatives. Withdrawal from propofol has not been described.
In addition to the above information the AEG trial also introduced us to the studies made by the leading sleep expert Dr. Czeisler whose research shows that the loss of the body temperature is actually a grave consequence of sleep deprivation.
His findings are fully confirmed by the study made on rats as early as 2002 which states that sleep deprivation results in excessive heat loss which is a precursor of death:
Later in [sleep] deprivation all rats …showed a precipitous decline in body and brain temperature from which they did not recover, even when the test chamber was rewarmed.
… The rats given antibiotic cocktails near the end of deprivation continued their temperature decline and died “on schedule” even though no trace of systemic infection was found.
The 2002 study also says that all sleep deprived rats lost weight even despite increased food take, had to spend much more energy and developed severe skin lesions of the unknown nature (so in application to Michael Jackson lack of sleep was very likely to exacerbate his poor skin condition).
The overall conclusion of the 2002 study is that the function of sleep is a tough nut to crack:
“The rats lost weight in spite of increased food intake. The large rise in energy expenditure calculated from the caloric values of food intake and weight loss was confirmed. The development of scrawny, debilitated appearance was confirmed. The severe ulcerative and hyperkeratotic skin lesions localized to the paws and tails of the rats were confirmed.
… The cause of death, the deterioration of appearance, the skin lesions, and how brain activity is changed have resisted explication. As unlikely as it might seem, perhaps the problem is that the mediation might be related to functionally significant physiological processes that have not yet been clearly identified—and that may be why the function of sleep has itself been such a tough nut to crack.” http://www.journalsleep.org/Articles/250104.pdf
Now the AEG and Murray’s advocates will say that as the sleep function is so difficult a nut to crack Dr. Murray as a general care physician could not solve Michael’s insomnia on his own, but we remember that one of the responsibilities of a general practitioner is to spot the problem and refer the matter to a respective expect specializing on it. However even when offered at least some help from John Branca Murray’s boss Randy Phillips and evidently Murray himself refused it….
If Murray and AEG had approached Dr. Czeisler for example, Michael would be surely alive now.
Dr. Czeisler said that Conrad Murray was totally incompetent to help Michael but if MJ had been properly diagnozed and given qualified help, he would have been able to complete the tour and could perform for many years to come! Here is a excerpt from his testimony:
Q. Do you have an opinion, to a reasonable medical probability, if Michael Jackson had been appropriately diagnosed and treated for his sleep disorder, whether his sleep problems would have prevented him from continuing with the tour?
A. I believe that if Michael Jackson were appropriately diagnosed and treated for his sleep disorder, then his sleep disorder would no longer have interfered with his ability to perform and to tour.
Q. Do you have an opinion, based on a reasonable medical probability, in the long term, if the sleep disorder was treatable?
A. Yes. I believe that if his sleep disorder had been appropriately diagnosed and treated, that he would have been able to complete not only this tour, but perform for many years to come.
Q. Last question I have. Do you believe Dr. Conrad Murray was fit and competent to treat him?
A. Dr. Conrad Murray was clearly not fit or competent to diagnose or treat Mr. Jackson’s sleep disorder.
… A. I indicated that the key issue in this case is that his insomnia, his sleep disorder, was greatly exacerbated when he was on tour or preparing for tours. And I think that that is the most important take-home message from this … from my evaluation of the record, is that whatever sleep disorder or disorders that he had, were not disabling in between. And that’s why I called them today rather mild when he was not in the tour mode or tour-preparation mode. It was disabling to him when he was either on tour or preparing to go on tour.
Q. I want to talk a little bit now about your opinion that Mr. Jackson, if appropriately diagnosed and treated, could have recovered from his sleep problems and performed and toured for quite a long time.
A. That’s correct.
Q. Ok. And that his sleep disorder was treatable?
Q. And for that opinion, you’re assuming, aren’t you, that Mr. Jackson would have been willing to enter into an appropriate sleep diagnosis and then treatment program, correct?
A. Yes that is … That is correct.
If Mr. Jackson had come to you and said, help me with my sleep problem, and you had gotten a licensed physician to partner up with you to diagnose and treat him, you would have taken a … Well, you would have used a whole team of sleep specialists to diagnose Mr. Jackson, right?
A. Yes, I … If I were asked to help the most successful performer who ever lived, I certainly would have assembled a team to try to help him with being able to continue his success.
Michael Jackson’s death was entirely preventable and this is the saddest part of this sad story.
If Dr. Murray had indeed been a competent doctor providing the best possible general care for Michael Jackson, all he had to do was referring him to a proper specialist like Dr. Czeisler. And it was AEG’s responsibilty not to hinder him in doing his job.
However none of them did what was expected of them and this is actually why Michael Jackson died. And now we are being told that no one is responsible for it?
A DIFFERENT SCENARIO WAS POSSIBLE
It turns out that Dr. Czeisler is actually very easy to find. He does not work solely for agencies like NASA and the military – no, he is quite accessible to the general public and is a frequent spokesman at various forums where he calls on corporations to change their policies and urges the public to stop the trend to glorify sleeplessness as a means to success.
He calls the sleep deficit a performance killer, and started alerting people to the problem as early as 2003 (this is the earliest of his papers I found). In the video below you can see Dr. Czeisler in person talking of the beneficial effect longer hours of sleep have on the employees and their productivity. Indeed, despite working less hours their productivity raises by 20%:
Sleep Deprivation And Productivity: Harvard Professor Explains Need For Shift Schedule Change
Posted: 03/12/2012 9:14 am EDT
And in his October 2006 presentation Dr. Czeisler called on corporations to change their performance killer policies and stop the tendency to glorify sleeplessness. The words he said in 2006 sound as if they were written about AEG and the way the corporation treated Michael Jackson:
Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer(excerpt)
Sleep deprivation, in your opinion, is a far more serious issue than most executives think it is.
Yes, indeed. Putting yourself or others at risk while driving or working at an impaired level is bad enough; expecting your employees to do the same is just irresponsible.
It amazes me that contemporary work and social culture glorifies sleeplessness in the way we once glorified people who could hold their liquor.
We now know that 24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%. We would never say, “This person is a great worker! He’s drunk all the time!” yet we continue to celebrate people who sacrifice sleep. The analogy to drunkenness is real because, like a drunk, a person who is sleep deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is. Moreover, their efficiency at work will suffer substantially, contributing to the phenomenon of “presenteeism,” which, as HBR has noted, exacts a large economic toll on business.
Sleep deprivation is not just an individual health hazard; it’s a public one. Consider the risk of occupational injury and driver fatigue. In a study our research team conducted of hospital interns who had been scheduled to work for at least 24 consecutive hours, we found that their odds of stabbing themselves with a needle or scalpel increased 61%, their risk of crashing a motor vehicle increased 168%, and their risk of a near miss increased 460%. In the U.S., drowsy drivers are responsible for a fifth of all motor vehicle accidents and some 8,000 deaths annually. It is estimated that 80,000 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every day, 10% of them run off the road, and every two minutes, one of them crashes. Countless innocent people are hurt.
There’s a man in Florida who’s serving a 15-year prison term for vehicular homicide—he’d been awake for 30-some hours when he crashed his company’s truck into a group of cars waiting for a light to change, killing three people. I would not want to be the CEO of the company bearing responsibility for those preventable deaths.
What should companies be doing to address the sleep problem?
People in executive positions should set behavioral expectations and develop corporate sleep policies, just as they already have concerning behaviors like smoking or sexual harassment.
It’s important to have a policy limiting scheduled work—ideally to no more than 12 hours a day, and exceptionally to no more than 16 consecutive hours. At least 11 consecutive hours of rest should be provided every 24 hours. Furthermore, employees should not be scheduled to work more than 60 hours a week and not be permitted to work more than 80 hours a week. When working at night or on extended shifts, employees should not be scheduled to work more than four or five consecutive days, and certainly no more than six consecutive days. People need at least one day off a week, and ideally two in a row, in order to avoid building up a sleep deficit.
Now, managers will often rationalize overscheduling employees. I hear them say that if their employees aren’t working, they will be out partying and not sleeping anyway. That may be true for some irresponsible individuals, but it doesn’t justify scheduling employees to work a hundred hours a week so that they can’t possibly get an adequate amount of sleep.
Finally, I would recommend that supervisors undergo training in sleep and fatigue management and that they promote good sleep behavior. People should learn to treat sleep as a serious matter. Both the company and the employees bear a shared responsibility to ensure that everyone comes to work well rested.
“Both the company and the employees bear a shared responsibility to ensure that everyone comes to work well rested.”
Wow. If Dr. Czeisler’s approach had been the basis for cooperation between AEG and Michael Jackson (though he wasn’t even their employee), Michael would be alive now.
Now it is becoming clear that since AEG couldn’t demand anything of him directly the whole idea of their hiring Murray was to exert pressure on Michael via their employee doctor, who was rendering services to his patient but was actually reporting to AEG as his employer.
And this once again brings us to the problem of AEG bearing responsibility for the death of Michael Jackson.
AEG IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MICHAEL’S DEATH
Firstly, AEG is responsible for Michael’s death directly as they treated him as another of their employees – though he was absolutely not and was actually a co-director of the show.
They simply overworked him by scheduling him for a working day of 12 or more hours 6 days a week. Judging by Dr. Czeisler’s findings this schedule alone was a recipe for disaster, not to mention a ‘minor’ thing that they had no right to coerce him into this or any other working schedules made at their whim. I will never tire to repeat that the AEG own general counsel Shawn Trell said that the Artist has no obligation to attend the rehearsals and it is even an insult to demand it of him.
So it is no wonder that Michael was constanly asking “Why can’t I choose?” and cried almost each time he spoke to Randy Phillips on the phone. He said to his son that they were killing him and this is what they were really doing by overworking him to his death.
Secondly, AEG bears responsibility for Michael’s death indirectly as they hired Dr. Murray for the job of taking care of Michael’s health and it was during the time of his general care for Michael that the patient’s health gravely deteriorated and ended in his death.
Judge Greg Mathis explains this matter further in this video :
And here is an excerpt from his statement:
In a case where Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine sued AEG promoters for hiring Dr. Murray, a jury concluded that Dr. Conrad Murray was competent when AEG promoters hired him to provide medical care for Michael. Dr. Murray is currently in prison on a manslaughter conviction for his negligence that caused Michael’s death.
Do you think Dr. Murray was competent when he was hired by AEG?
Under the legal doctrine of Respondeat Superior* an employer is legally responsible for the actions of his employees when they are acting within the course and scope of employment unless the employee deviates from his assigned duties.
.. In this case Dr. Murray was performing the duty AEG hired him to perform which was to medically care for Michael Jackson. And that it is in direct resort of his care that Michael Jackson died.
Therefore AEG should have been held liable for his wrongful death because AEG hired Dr. Murray. Send me your comments and see if you can make sense of this jury’s decision.
Note: “Respondeat superior” is Latin for “Let the superior answer”, or the employer’s legal responsibility for the employee’s actions.
By now the judge’s statement has collected more than 4000 likes on Facebook. I hope it takes us to an appeal in this case and a really fair retrial of it.
And we could stop at that if it were not for one more phenomenon which is also attracting attention.
THE JURY AND FANS ARE IN A DEEP EMBRACE
The overview of the post-verdict battlefield would be incomplete if we did not mention the friendship the Michael Jackson’s fans suddenly struck with the jurors who just declared “competent’ the doctor who had killed Michael Jackson through his gross negligence and who found the AEG company ‘not guilty’ though it directly contributed to his death.
All these jurors had to do to drive the fans into a frenzy of a big new love was paying lip service to Michael and saying that as a result of the trial the two of them became his fans.
The juror who called himself #27 approached the MJJC fan forum with a letter praising the fans for their attitude to their verdict and since then we’ve been observing there the scenes of mutual glorification, appreciation for each other and the exchange of gratitude for the great work done.
The kindred spirits have met and fallen into each other arms.
Another interesting phenomenon is that even in comparison with the ordinary public the MJJC fan forum has an abnormally big proportion of AEG supporters among their ranks.
Just prior to the verdict the HLN CNN branch site, which is actually a place attended by a huge number of Michael’s detractors, conducted a public opinion poll on whether AEG was responsible for Michael’s death, and as many as 74% of its readers said that it was.
Today, almost two weeks after the not guilty verdict for AEG the same poll is showing that 71% of the readers are still of the opinion that AEG is responsible for Michael Jackson’s death: http://www.hlntv.com/poll/2013/09/24/aeg-responsible-michael-jacksons-death
However if you look at a similar poll conducted at the MJJCommuinity forum among its registered and eligible to vote fans, you will be immensely surprised to see that over there more than a half of the forum members consider AEG not liable for Michael’s death.
What a heart-breaking result for a forum claiming to represent the fan community and actually guiding them in their views on the trial and all other matters concerning Michael!
Here is the poll at the MJJCommunity forum:
The difference in the poll results is telling the whole story and does not require much comment.
It clearly shows that the MJJC fan community has more supporters for AEG than even a HLN site which is reflecting the opinion of the general public including many of MJ’s open critics and even haters.
Does it mean that even MJ’s detractors are able to see what the so-called fans cannot – that AEG is responsible for Michael’s death?
Or can the MJJC love for AEG be simply a case of “Tell me who your friend is and I will tell you who you are”?
Whatever it is the results of the poll say that despite the fact that the jury delivered a not guilty verdict for AEG, the overwhelming majority of the general public (71%) still thinks AEG to be responsible for Michael’s death – which is a result I applaud with both of my wounded hands.
And on the MJJCommunity forum the number of fans who think the same is only 48,9%, so the share of Katherine Jackson’s supporters on the MJ fan site is almost 22% lower than among the general public.
Similarly if we compare the number of supporters for AEG on both sites their share on the Michael Jackson forum will be again higher by 22% than on a HLN site which reflects the opinion of non-fans and ordinary public.
So will it surprise anyone now that the juror from the AEG trial went directly to MJJC and was welcomed there as a dear guest? The MJJC love affair with AEG has had a long history of its own, so the recent embraces with the jurors acquitting both AEG and Murray are just a new but logical step in all that flirting.
Considering the above statistics I suggest renaming MJJC into a forum of AEG fans. This way it will be at least much more honest and true to the actual data.
OUR BICYCLES AGAINST THEIR MACHINERY
When this post was already made from the comments arriving I realised the degree of desperation prevailing among those of us who supported Katherine Jackson (and ultimately the truth) in her lawsuit against AEG.
The miscarriage of justice is indeed so gross that it is difficult to remain alive after so big a blow and delivered under the belt too.
Now we really know how Michael felt during the many years of grave injustice and vicious harassment.
However the same Absolute power that helped Michael to survive through it all sent me a sign of encouragement right at the moment when I was writing a reply to one of those desperate comments. It was a video blasting from my music TV and carrying exactly the feeling I now have which is almost impossible to put into words.
It is something like – Yes, we were killed, but it’s time to get up and ride our bicycles again.
The video of ’30 Seconds to Mars’ that helped me realize the feeling will say it better than words.
A darkness comes at dawn
These lessons that we’ve learned here
Have only just begun…