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Rick Shapiro
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Beyond Medical Malpractice: Jurors Convict Michael Jackson’s Doctor for Gross Negligence

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Conrad Murray is going to prison because his patient, King of Pop Michael Jackson, died after overdosing on the powerful anesthetic drug propofol (Diprivan from AstraZeneca). The jurors who decided his fate after a six-week trial in Los Angeles, California (CA), did not find that the doctor administered a lethal dose of the medication, however. The jury didn’t have to.

Because Murray was facing a charge of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors only had to show that gross negligence by the doctor led directly to Jackson’s death. Increasing numbers of medical professionals are facing criminal charges for negligence, and evidence presented during Murray’s trial certainly seemed to make a convincing case that the physician had consistently — sometimes shockingly — failed to meet the standard of care a doctor owes a patient.

Without rehashing all the arguments prosecutors made, I’ll just link to this trial timeline and mention this evidentiary highlight:

Propofol is not approved for use outside hospitals, and any patient receiving injections of the drug must be closely observed by a specially trained doctor or nurse while also being monitored with a range of topline heart and lung machines. Murray shot up Jackson in the singer’s bedroom every day for a month, did not stay in the room with Jackson afterward and failed to use adequate monitoring equipment.

As a medical malpractice attorney practicing in Virginia, I was following the Michael Jackson manslaughter trial closely. I don’t handle criminal cases, but my colleagues and I have represented hundreds of patients who suffered greatly because of medical negligence. Misadministration of prescription medication and irresponsible prescribing of narcotic painkillers are particular focuses for us, which further increased my interest in the case involving propofol.

I am satisfied with Conrad’s conviction, for which he may be sentenced to up to 4 years in prison. Doctors who put their patients’ lives at risk by giving them unsafe medication in an unsafe manner should be held responsible for their negligence.

EJL

About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.