King of Pop’s physician betrayed medical ethics

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When Michael Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was recently convicted for killing Jackson, the King of Pop’s legions of fans became desperate in their wish to see the doctor put behind bars. While there is something quite illogical about the fervent following this case has developed, there are deeper issues here than a few rabid fans. It comes down to who holds the responsibility for Jackson’s death.

Yes, ultimately Jackson was a drug addict, and as such he had a skewed view of what he needed and what he simply craved. However, as a physician, Murray took an oath to use good judgment and awareness in his actions as a doctor. In this case, his actions were simply irresponsible. No matter how high-profile his client was, Murray should have acknowledged the fact that Jackson’s condition made his judgment extremely poor. On top of that, Murray made several mistakes in addition to administering Jackson dangerous drugs in an uncontrolled setting.

During the trial, Murray admitted that he had left his post and returned to find the pop star in critical condition. He delayed calling for help several minutes as he tried to revive Jackson single-handedly, and when the paramedics finally arrived, Murray did not inform them that Jackson was administered a dose of Propofol, a surgical sedative.

Nobody can be sure of who delivered the fatal dose of Propofol. Defense lawyers argued that it could have been the ill-behaved star who administered it to himself. Although possible, this is beside the point.

Jackson’s death, and Murray’s resulting manslaughter conviction, is about more than a celebrity’s drug addiction or even the celebrity himself. It is about the trust that society should be able to have in doctors. As a personal physician, Murray should have devoted himself not just to pleasing his client, but also to providing his client with the best care possible and promoting his health. Ultimately, nobody is the victor in this trial. Both Jackson and Murray made sizable mistakes and both men paid for it: Jackson with his life and Murray with his career.