Maybe if Dr. Nick had been tried in court instead of in front of the Tennessee State Medical Licensing board, he would have gone to jail for killing Elvis – and Michael Jackson, Corey Haim and other doctor shopping celebrities might be alive.
But doctors are rarely held to the standard that mere morals are held to – so Dr. Conrad Murray, who was just the last in a string of pusher doctors, is found guilty at trial rather than be fined by the medical board for poor ethical standards.
Will Murray be the latest victim of celebrity excess and the greed that surrounds celebrities, or will he herald a change for doctors to really do no harm to their celebrity patients?
What’s most interesting to me is how much easier it seems to be for doctors to be blamed when their patient is a dead celebrity – because having worked some years ago on a medical malpractise complaint against a doctor, it is astonishingly difficult to establish guilt.
In the Vancouver case, a doctor who specialized in AIDs patients, was using liquid nitrogen to burn off anal warts – a common opportunistic infection. But think about that for a moment: Liquid nitrogen, anal spincter.
If you aren’t squirming in your chair, you probably haven’t had to have liquid nitrogen applied to your skin. Having had liquid nitrogen used to remove planter warts from my toe and some moles on my arm, I can assure you that liquid nitrogen is nothing that you want on anything as sensitive as your anus.
Of the three doctors who reviewed the treatment, one stated that the application of liquid nitrogen to the anal area was inappropriately agressive, with the other two indicating that it was unconventional but not unthinkable as a treatment option.
That four of the five patients that we represented didn’t even have anal warts, didn’t factor into the assessement of the appropriateness of the treatment.
So, here, we had a case of a doctor, using unconventional aggressive treatment for an ailment that the patients don’t have and isn’t warrented for what they do have. But these are just five gay guys and not dead celebrities, so the case falls apart in the face of doctors standing together – and it doesn’t matter what reality or evidence demonstrates.
So while Dr. Conrad Murray didn’t get Jackson addicted to drugs, he stepped into a situation that Jackson’s death was inevitable and gambled that he could do what he was paid to do and get out before things went too wrong. He gambled and lost.
Is it fair he go to jail?
In that jail is intended as a deterrent to crime and insofar as Murray’s actions were criminally negligent in that he was not trained to administer the drug at issue, which was further being done in an improper setting, yes, Dr. Murray, as a medical doctor, knew or ought to have known, how dangerous the situation was.
Despite that Jackson himself should have been in jail and not unconsciously preparing for a concert tour (can you call it a tour when it’s just the one location?), no matter Jackson’s failings and shortcomings, Dr. Conrad Murray contributed to his death.
But it’s the actions after that are the most telling – Murray did not immediately call for help and he hid information from medical responders. There was never doubt about Murray’s contributions – but there is some doubt as to whether he should shoulder the full burden.
But, as with Elvis, the biggest share of responsibility lies with Jackson himself. Celebrity seems to be it’s own reward as well as punishment.
1. Doctors and police should never investigate themselves for misconduct, because there’s an inherent conflict of interest.
2. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Michael Jackson fan. I believed him to be guilty of The Charges years in advance of any claims being made. That taints my observations of the current events, and I just wanted to admit my bias.