Michael Jackson hid drug dependency, according to doctor

By BILL HETHERMAN, City News Service
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Dec. 8, 1996 photo of Michael Jackson during concert in Manila, dubbed HIStory World tour. (AP Photo/Pat Roque, File)

Dec. 8, 1996 photo of Michael Jackson during concert in Manila, dubbed HIStory World tour. (AP Photo/Pat Roque, File)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Michael Jackson hid his drug dependency from a doctor who examined him in anticipation of his ill-fated “This Is It” concert series, a renowned pathologist said in a sworn declaration prepared in connection with a lawsuit over insurance benefits stemming from the concerts’ cancellation.

Dr. Michael Baden is a 79-year-old forensic pathologist who has testified in many high-profile cases, including that of O.J. Simpson when he was tried and acquitted of the deaths of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. He also hosts HBO’s “Autopsy.”

In a sworn declaration, Baden said Dr. David Slavit, an ear, nose and throat specialist, asked the pop star to fill out a form during a physical examination conducted at the entertainer’s home on Feb. 4, 2009. Jackson was asked, “Have you ever been treated or had any indication of excessive use of alcohol or drugs?,” Baden said.

Jackson replied, “No,” according to Baden.

Relying in part on the entertainer’s representations, Slavit concluded, “The only current conditions that Mr. Jackson suffers are with a resolving cold and an allergy to the sun,” Baden said. Slavit said the only medication Jackson was taking was an antibiotic, according to Baden.

“Mr. Jackson was not being truthful to Dr. Slavit when he responded as he did … in the questionnaire that he filled out in connection with Dr. Slavit’s examination,” Baden said.

In reality, Jackson was dependent upon the pain medication Demerol in the months before his June 25, 2009, death at age 50, from acute propofol intoxication, Baden said. Jackson received up to 375 milligrams of Demerol 23 times from March 12-June 22, 2009, while getting Botox and Restylane facial wrinkle treatments from his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, according to Baden.

“Dr. Klein’s records demonstrate that Jackson was addicted to Demerol in the spring and summer of 2009,” according to Baden. “Mr. Jackson did not disclose to Dr. Slavit or the insurers any of the many medications, including propofol and Demerol, that he was using before or after the policy inception.”

Lloyd’s of London filed suit against AEG Live and the Michael Jackson Co. LLC in June 2011. Lloyd’s wants a judge to find it does not have to pay a $17.5 million tour-cancellation insurance claim on grounds the company relied on Slavit’s findings and was not told by Jackson or anyone associated with him that he was abusing drugs before he died from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009, at age 50.

Tour promoter AEG Live has dropped its claim for benefits. Attorneys for Lloyd’s have filed a motion for a declaration that The Michael Jackson Co. is not entitled to any money either and they asked for Baden’s input on the circumstances surrounding Jackson’s death. A hearing on the motion is scheduled Sept. 11.

On the recommendation of its insurance broker, AEG Live selected Slavit to conduct the examination of Jackson. Baden said he reviewed Slavit’s medical report on Jackson, the singer’s autopsy report, police reports and medical records from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where the King of Pop was pronounced dead.

According to Baden, Slavit’s medical examination of Jackson was “very cursory below the neck, especially considering the strenuous series of concerts in preparation for which the examination was being performed.”

Slavit did not perform a chest X-ray, concluded Jackson’s chest and lungs were normal and “reported nothing about Mr. Jackson’s inability to sleep,” according to Baden.

Baden said Cherilyn Lee, a holistic nurse practitioner, testified during a deposition and during the criminal trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s former personal physician. According to Baden, Lee said Jackson told her on Easter Sunday 2009 that her efforts to help the singer sleep were failing and that he only wanted propfol.

“Doctors have told me it’s safe, I just need to be monitored,” Jackson told Lee, according to Baden.

The singer referred to propofol as “milk,” Baden said.

Both Lee and Jackson’s internist, Dr. Allen Metzger, advised the singer it was dangerous to receive intravenous sleep medications in a home setting, Baden said. The pop star ignored their advice and demanded propofol from Murray, who agreed to provide it, Baden said.

“Jackson’s death from propofol was within his control, but he chose to ignore the warnings of Dr. Metzger, his longtime internist, and nurse Lee and instead sought out propofol from Dr. Murray, whom Jackson treated as an employee and whose relationship with Dr. Murray was not the typical objective physician-patient relationship,” according to Baden.

Despite warnings that misuse of propofol could be fatal, Jackson “doctor-shopped until he found who he wanted and thereby contributed to his own death,” Baden said.

In addition to his drug abuse, Jackson also had chronic lung disease, failing eyesight that required him to use a magnifying glass to read, had trouble urinating because of an enlarged prostate and had severe arthritis in his hands and lower spine, Baden said.

“The extraordinary and strenuous use of his hands and legs were hallmarks of Mr. Jackson’s performances and would have been adversely affected by these conditions, which were not disclosed to Dr. Slavit,” Baden said.

Murray was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter for giving the singer a lethal intravenous dose of propofol  as a sleep aid and was sentenced to four years in jail.

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