Conrad Murray: The Beast of “Need” Cost Two Lives — The Debtor and the Addict

It was a lethal combination of drugs and debt that killed the King of Pop and ruined the life of a doctor.

Dr. Conrad Murray’s major issues with his finances led him to choose money over the safety of his patient, Michael Jackson. The photo of Michael’s personal physician, the man he entrusted with his health and well-being, sitting outside his tomb at Forest Lawn Cemetery — a few days before he would be pleading not guilty to involuntary manslaughter — is sad. I’m sure he has regrets and wishes he had said “no.”

However, his level of arrogance — avoiding the inevitable bitter pill of possibly losing his freedom and medical license over such gross negligence — is appalling. His denial of the oath he took as a physician to save and protect was compromised by his own financial agenda. Whether desperation gave way to greed — only Dr. Murray can answer that question. Michael Jackson also was desperate with his needs, which were never met. He needed an intervention to save his life from his addiction. Dr. Murray didn’t just make house calls, he lived with the superstar and fed him his drip of drugs from his bedroom around the clock. You can’t get much more under a doctor’s “care” than that.

People have a hard time dealing with the fact that doctors can kill. We want to trust them with our lives, as if it’s a right they earn by having a medical license. Sadly, that’s only how it should be. The question begs asking: What can we learn from the deaths of Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley at the hands of their fame-obsessed physicians? How do we prevent another tragedy resulting from the cornucopia of prescriptions which stocked the medicine cabinets of the late Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger?

50s crooner Eddie Fisher and movie legend Elizabeth Taylor survived their Dr. Feelgoods, but stars like Judy Garland have had their legacies forever tarnished by syringes and pens. I’m telling you, this isn’t a new problem. We have an addicted nation of nice people who go to nice doctors who give them nice prescriptions to medicate their panic and pain. The rich and famous can afford to get their drugs delivered and, in the case of Michael Jackson, administered 24/7 at his bedside.

Having worked in the field of addiction for two decades, and having been a drug addict myself, I know all too well the denial of this disease by addicts and those who love them. So when they turn to the medical profession, they should be entitled to receive help not hurt, because an addict isn’t going to “just say no” to drugs — ever! It’s the responsibility of the doctors, dentists, pharmacists and all other health care professionals to employ and enforce a reliable system whereby the patient’s drug history is screened and monitored.

I cannot tell you the number of clients I’ve encountered who spend anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 a month with concierge doctors. A common practice for the textbook “A through D” lister addict is to check into a hotel after a drunken rampage. He or she will call the front desk for the hotel doctor to come to the room. The doctor opens up his little black bag and injects the “guest” with sedatives to calm them down. If the patient was complaining of chest pains or complications from cancer, would the doc be so quick to administer meds? I think not. Soon the addict has a new best friend to relieve his ‘anxiety’ and the hotel doctor has a high-paying, high profile patient to further his greed and fill his need for a sense of importance.

Dr. Murray is nothing special. He’s just another groupie MD who abused his position and exerted power over the powerless. He crossed the line because his need for money became more important to him than his professional oath, which was to keep his patient safe at all costs. Murray didn’t act alone, but neither is he a scapegoat. His consequences for his negligence in turning a sick superstar into a celebrity corpse are of his own making. His crime was his inability to uphold his oath and say “no” to someone unable to make that decision for himself.

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