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Wallace Goodstein, M.D.

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Michael Jackson's Doctor on Trial: There is No Statute of Limitations on Addiction

Posted: 10/13/11 07:19 PM ET

Before perhaps the most-watched trial of the decade even began, it appears that the trial judge has already disregarded critical evidence of Michael Jackson's past and continued addiction to prescription drugs. Since I shared offices with Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon from approximately February 1991 to November 1992, I watched the early stages of the trial with keen interest. When I left that practice, I personally had no doubt that Michael Jackson was addicted to narcotics and sedatives as a result of drugs prescribed and administered to him as a result of numerous plastic surgical procedures. I was not the only person aware of Michael's early addiction.

By early 1993, Michael admitted his addiction and underwent drug rehabilitation in Europe. In April 2010, Michael's sister, Janet, acknowledged his continuing addiction and her unsuccessful attempt at drug intervention. In November 2010, Michael's mother, Katherine, also publicly acknowledged his issues with addiction.

Beginning in the 1990s and onward, Michael underwent treatment by dermatologist Arnold Klein for a diagnosis of lupus, which apparently involved numerous injections of the narcotic painkiller Demerol that continued up until shortly before his death. Despite these facts, Judge Michael Pastor has ruled this part of Michael's medical history to be irrelevant. He also refused to permit medical testimony from Dr. Klein and other treating doctors and only allowed testimony from two physicians that treated Michael most recently. Although I personally cannot think of an indication for the repeated use of Demerol in the treatment of lupus, I believe that Dr. Klein should be provided with an opportunity to explain his actions.

Why is the past history of Michael's addiction relevant to Dr. Murray's case, especially since it is a painful experience for his family and global fans to relive?

The most important factor in determining the outcome in cases of drug addiction is, in fact, the duration of the addiction. Long-term addicts have a much higher likelihood of dying from their disease. This is particularly true for narcotic opiates like Demerol and benzodiazepene sedatives such as Ativan and Versed, all drugs involved in the Michael Jackson case. Over time the brain develops tolerance to these drugs so that dangerously-high doses are required to achieve the same effect. These drugs are especially insidious over prolonged periods, especially when used in combination with other medications. Rebound insomnia and cardiac and respiratory depression resulting in death are not uncommon in such cases.

Thus, the issue of Michael's prior addiction is highly relevant in determining responsibility for Michael Jackson's death. Did Dr. Murray enter a situation with an end-stage addict, or was it negligence solely on his part? This question cannot be answered without exploring Michael's past drug use even though it is an emotional nightmare for some who are coping with his loss.

Another bizarre twist is the judge's comments that Sony Corporation would suffer financial consequences if footage from Michael Jackson's rehearsal were to be shown at trial. If Michael Jackson's medical treatment in the early 1990s had been investigated, perhaps this tragedy would have been averted. Ignoring this aspect again may encourage this same type of denial which does not do justice to Michael.

By precluding evidence of the origin, duration and course of Michael Jackson's drug addiction, the ability to ascertain the truth at trial has been compromised. This leaves open the potential for an appeal. And what would be more painful for his family and fans? There is no statute of limitations on addiction.