Greed, Celebrity, Murray's Poor Judgment Led to Jackson's Death

Michael Jackson's doctor should have practiced better judgement.

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Maybe it's hard for some people to see Michael Jackson as a victim. He was an immensely talented man, to be sure, but he also got pretty weird in his later years. The Neverland Ranch, the ever-lightening skin color, the attention to children and childlike things—all add up to a figure that is hard to relate to, never mind sympathize with. So when the pop singer was found dead in his home in 2009, apparently from an overdose of a strong anesthetic, it did seem that it was a tragic outcome of the behavior of a very unusual man.

But while Jackson might have had some issues, that does not spare his doctor, Conrad Murray, from the duty of exercising better judgment. Murray, much to the relief of Jackson's family and fans, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for administering a lethal dose of a surgical anesthetic to help Jackson sleep. It's a sad story, since presumably Murray did not believe he was killing Jackson by giving him such a deadly dose of the substance. But sadder still is how professional greed and celebrity culture combined to cause the death of a young and talented singer.

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Judge Michael Pastor got it, opining:

This is not a crime involving a mistake of judgment. This is a crime where the end result was the death of a human being. That factor demonstrates rather dramatically that the public should be protected.

Were Jackson just another patient, one doubts this series of events would have occurred. The deadly conclusion started with a culture in which treating a celebrity becomes a goal in itself—offensive for anyone trained to simply take care of the sick. Jackson, too, may have felt entitled to break the rules, as we have seen among other tabloid denizens. Perhaps he thought that because he was Michael Jackson, he could demand drugs and treatments few other patients would be given. Perhaps he was so troubled that he saw no other way to survive than over-medication, and the anesthesia was his drug of choice.

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But this is where the doctor puts on the brakes, and tells the celebrity, "I don't care how famous you are. I'm not going to go against medical standards and risk your life just because you're a celebrity and used to getting what you want." But Murray gave him the anesthesia, and lost the gamble.

Murray is famous now. Just for all the wrong reasons.