Michael Jackson Autopsy Report Delayed

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Toxicology screens from Michael Jackson's autopsy have been delayed indefinitely. But leaks in the case make it clear that authorities are looking at the anesthetic agent propofol as the likely cause of death.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand in California.

The Los Angeles coroner says Michael Jackson's autopsy results will not be released next week as promised. Investigators want more time to study Jackson's drug connections. Authorities are acting on the premise that the pop icon was an addict and that doctors knew it when they supplied him with prescriptions.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: By now the distress call is familiar.

(Soundbite of phone call)

Unidentified Man #1: We have a gentleman here that needs help, and he's not breathing yet. He's not breathing, and we need to - we're trying to pump him, but he's not…

Unidentified Man #2: Okay, okay, how old is he?

BATES: The he in question was 50-year-old Michael Jackson. Later, police reportedly found large quantities of prescription drugs at the singer's home and something especially troubling, a sedative called Propofal, which normally is found in surgical suites.

Dr. PHILIP LUMB (Head of Anesthesiology, Keck Medical School, University of Southern California): It is what we call in anesthesia an induction agent. Therefore, it is primarily used for inducing a state of unconsciousness.

BATES: Dr. Philip Lumb is head of anesthesiology at the University of Southern California's Keck Medical School in Los Angeles.

Dr. LUMB: It is not a pain reliever, so it is not a complete anesthetic agent, and we classify it as a sedative hypnotic.

BATES: Doctors often refer to Propofal as milk of amnesia. It's milky in color and it erases the memory of your surgery. Dr. Lumb says patients who get it must remain under constant, close observation to make sure they keep breathing.

Dr. LUMB: We monitor blood-oxygen saturation. We monitor blood pressure. And we monitor continuous heartbeat through an electrocardiogram.

BATES: Propofal could explain how Michael Jackson died suddenly after nailing a vigorous rehearsal the night before.

(Soundbite of song, "They Don't Care About Us")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Musician): (Singing) Some things in life they just don't wanna see.

BATES: And authorities are taking a hard look at Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. While Murray hasn't been named as a suspect, investigators searched the doctor's Las Vegas home and his Houston clinic. They're now considering this a manslaughter investigation, meaning police are looking for evidence of a reckless act that caused death.

But authorities may still have lots of work ahead, says Laurie Levenson, a Loyola law professor and former federal prosecutor. Levenson is an expert observer of the LAPD dating back to the OJ Simpson double-murder case.

Professor LAURIE LEVENSON (Loyola Law School): You really need to follow the evidence to where it goes, not feel any artificial time deadlines by the media or the public, be fair to Dr. Murray, be fair to the case and track it all down.

BATES: But like other high-profile L.A. investigations, this case has leaks. The Associated Press quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying Murray gave Jackson Propofal the day he died to help him sleep. And there are questions about what Jackson may have done to himself over a long period of time with prescription drugs.

Multiple news accounts say authorities have discovered as many as 19 different aliases Jackson used to get drugs from many different physicians. Even if the toxicology report says Propofal is what ultimately killed Jackson, it may never answer what all those other drugs did to him along the way.

(Soundbite of song, "They Don't Care About Us")

Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) All I want to say is that they don't really care about - all I want to say is that they don't really care about us.

BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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