Documents Show 'King Of Pop' Died Of Propofol

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The Los Angeles County coroner's office may release new information soon on the death of Michael Jackson. A search warrant affidavit revealed Monday that Jackson's body contained a lethal dose of a surgical sedative known as propofol. There are reports that the coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We may hear more today from the Los Angeles coroner's office about Michael Jackson's cause of death. Yesterday, a search warrant affidavit revealed that Jackson's body contained a lethal dose of a surgical sedative. And the Associated Press, quoting an unnamed source, said the coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide. The immediate question here is what all this means for the singer's personal physician, who's been under investigation. Here's more from NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: According to the affidavit, the person who gave Michael Jackson propofol is Dr. Conrad Murray. He was the pop singer's personal physician who was with him the day he died. But calling Jackson's death a homicide isn't the same as calling it a murder, says attorney Laurie Levinson. She teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is a former federal prosecutor.

Professor LAURIE LEVINSON (Criminal Law, Loyola Law School): Homicide simply means death at the hands of another. It's certainly not the same as accusing anybody of a crime.

BATES: That means the person who gave Jackson the propofol isn't necessarily suspected of homicide in the sense that most people understand the word.

Prof. LEVINSON: It's not the same as murder, which means an intentional killing, or even manslaughter, which would mean grossly negligent or reckless behavior.

BATES: That fits with what's known about the probe of Dr. Murray. He's been interviewed by the police, and his home and offices have been searched in what authorities have labeled a manslaughter investigation.

Last week, after weeks of making no public comment, a calm Dr. Murray released a video to thank people who believed in his innocence.

Dr. CONRAD MURRAY (Physician): I told the truth, and I have faith the truth will prevail.

BATES: The truth, as told in the affidavit, contains a frightening catalog of pharmaceuticals Dr. Murray said he administered to Jackson to address the singer's insomnia. On June 25th, the day of Jackson's death, the warrant says Dr. Murray gave the singer alternating doses of Ativan and Versed, anti-anxiety medications that should cause sleepiness via I.V.

At 10:40 AM, at Jackson's increasingly urgent demands, the affidavit says Murray gave Jackson propofol diluted with lidocaine intravenously, and the singer finally slept. Jackson never awoke.

Dr. Scott Engwall is vice chair of the University of California Medical Center at Irvine in Orange, California. Dr. Engwall says propofol is a safe sedative when used properly.

Dr. SCOTT ENGWALL (Vice chair, University of California Medical Center): We use it all the time as anesthesiologists.

BATES: That's in a hospital setting, with people who are trained to administer the anesthesia and intervene with emergency measures if something goes wrong. Dr. Engwall says there are other places where propofol could be used.

Dr. ENGWALL: Either an outpatient surgery practice, a podiatrist's office, a cosmetic surgeon's office, some other appropriately equipped, controlled environment.

BATES: Home use, he says, is not one of them.

Loyola's Laurie Levinson says the investigation into Jackson's death will certainly spread beyond the man who was with Jackson when he died.

Prof. LEVINSON: I think it's clearly a wider investigation. We know that Michael Jackson had many doctors who were attending to him. In fact, by the time Dr. Murray was helping him, he was already hooked on some of these drugs.

BATES: And reportedly, investigators are already looking into some of those names.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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