Editorial: Doctor in The Dock

Noorulann Shahid

As the late King of Pop Michael Jackson’s doctor Conrad Murray was recently found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by the unanimous decision of the jury, the theme of responsibility and ethics in the medical profession has hit the headlines once more. Murray has always protested his innocence, but despite this, the guilty verdict did not seem to shock him. His crime was dispensing Jackson the drug propofol; a powerful anaesthetic traditionally for use in hospitals.

All doctors must swear by the Hippocratic Oath, which includes the statement: “I will use treatments for the benefit of the ill in accordance with my ability and my judgment, but from what is to their harm and injustice I will keep them.” The opposition lawyer and loyal Jackson fans have repeatedly accused Murray of being negligent as he provided Jackson with propofol with the knowledge that he was heavily addicted and reliant upon it as an insomniac.

Any doctor with morals would have refused; the jury heard from many doctors who said that they, if faced with the situation, would have walked away from Jackson’s request without a second thought. His request was for propofol every night for two months. But Murray obliged. Why? Murray admitted he thought he had “hit the jackpot” when Jackson had offered financial compensation of a tempting £93,000 a month, and also admitted he was “motivated by the money”.

Perhaps Murray was also motivated by treating one of the world’s most famous pop stars. It is clear that Jackson was under immense pressure rehearsing for his sell-out 50-date comeback tour at the O2 arena in London. The defence have suggested that after Conrad left that night, Jackson may have intravenously taken another small dose of propofol. Whether or not this is true, it is Conrad himself who made the drug accessible to Jackson, and Jackson clearly trusted Murray with his life.

An odd analogy it may be, but take the example of a drug dealer and a drug addict. The drug addict will do whatever he can to get access to the drug he so desperately craves. The drug dealer is aware of the dangers of drugs, but is mainly motivated by the money, so will continue to supply regardless. This analogy is similar to the circumstances of Jackson’s death, but there is a crucial difference. A drug dealer is incomparable to a doctor since a doctor has sworn to the Hippocratic Oath and has a responsibility towards his patient.

It is clear that Murray was driven by money; which is hard to blame him for in the materialistic society we live in. But the jurors believe he was also negligent on a second count, since he failed to call for an ambulance quickly enough. He may have hesitated upon realisation of the consequences of his actions.

Murray is to be sentenced later this month, and will be remanded in custody until then, as his request for bail was denied, since the judge feared he may flee and that he may pose a threat to the public. He could face up to four years.He is innocent in that he did not intent to kill Michael, but he is guilty for providing him with the fatal drug that ultimately ended his life.

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