It’s nice to be the King of Pop’s personal physician, but it’s even nicer to be an honorable professional who shoulders your ethical burdens and resists the temptation to profit from a powerful person with a substance abuse problem.
A Los Angeles jury said as much to Dr. Conrad Murray on Monday, when they found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star’s drug-related death in 2009. That’s the doctor’s official crime. However, Murray’s real crime was being a blatant lackey who tried to get paid by making a famous client feel good about himself, even when he was out of line.
It was that co-dependency that ultimately killed the 50-year-old Jackson with a fatal overdose of a powerful anesthetic called “propofol” normally reserved for surgical procedures. Jackson had no business asking for the drug as a sleep aid and Murray had no business giving it to him.
In the end, Jackson was as much a victim of Hollywood’s twisted show business industry and our society’s peculiar cult of celebrity as a beneficiary of it. The painful truth is that Murray is a useful scapegoat for the collective sins of the entertainment industry, which were committed by many of those who profited from Jackson’s five decades in show business.
Jackson was often way out of line in his later years, as he abused sleeping pills and plastic surgery, and indulged his alleged sexual attraction to young boys. At every step, the former child star was aided and abetted in his destructive behavior by a willing cadre of morally-challenged and shamelessly self-interested lackeys, who did things they knew were wrong to advance themselves and secure their spot ont he gravy train.
Jackson had access to any drug he wanted via Murray, his fame let him get close to people’s children, his bodyguards protected him from their angry parents, and his lawyers insulated him from the kind of social accoutability the rest of us are subject to.
They also prevented this narcissist from developing the kind of healthy give-and-take relationships most of us take for granted.
Lackeys may be the single biggest challenge for the wealthy and powerful. Celebrities and despots alike seem to lose the ability to differentiate between right and wrong once they surround themselves with enabling syncoants. Jackson, actresses Lindsy Lohan and Britney Spears, basketball player Allen Iverson, former tycoon Howard Hughes, financier Bernard Madoff, the Bush family, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and former Libyan dictator Moamar Gahhafi are all examples of the risk of being seperated from reality that comes with such personal elevation and indulgence.
Murray, 58, faces up to four years behind bars when he is sentenced Nov. 29. He’s unlikely to spend more than a few months in Los Angeles’ overcrowded cells afterward, although he was led away in handcuffs after the verdict and will call them home until sentenced.
Curiously, poor people are never released early to make room for the rich in our nation’s crowded jails and prisons.
Prosecutors alleged during the six-week trial that Murray was grossly negligent in administering propofol to help Jackson sleep. They said the physician was negligent for administering the drug in a home setting, failing to monitor Jackson, delaying a call to emergency services and not telling medical personnel he had administered the powerful drug.
Murray admitted giving Jackson a small dose of propofol. Defense lawyers argued that the singer was dependent on the drug and likely gave himself an additional and fatal dose without Murray’s knowledge. However, the development of such a chemical dependecy is unlikely without Murray’s collaboration.
Jackson’s mother Katherine and sister Rebbie cried silently as the verdict was announced, according to The Associated Press.
The Jackson clan derived hundreds of millions of dollars in income from the dead musician, who began his career as the ebullient lead singer of the family group called “The Jackson Five” at the age of six in 1964.
The extensive cosmetic surgery the singer subjected himself to is a familial obsession with the Jacksons, many of whom have used the medical community to dramatically alter their appearances. The singer’s face and hair changed so drastically over the years that he bore little resmlbance as an adult to his own childhood photos.
As with Murray, there was no shortage of cosmetic surgeons willing to perform additional procedures on the multi-millionaire. And Jackson often seemed incapable of denying himself anything.
The singer was in and out of the public spotlight for allegedly engaging in sexual relationships with underage boys lured to his Neverland Ranch by its carnival-type rides, petting zoo and famous resident. He was acquitted of child molestation charges in a 2005 trial, but was rumored to have avoided similar prosecutions by reaching private legal settlements in the millions of dollars with the families of his alleged victims.
Jackson proved as adept in death at avoiding blame for his own personal misconduct as he was in life. However, Murray and his fellow toadies made it all possible by monetizing their personal honor and professional ethics at a time when good people were more likely to be distinguished by what they refused to do than the unsavory acts they commited and enabled.
In the end, Murray and his fellow lackeys may as well have hung “for sale” signs around their necks and allowed the vulnerable Jackson to buy them at auction, because they stood for nothing but dollars. Their inability to deny him anything ultimately helped to bring a premature end to his life and to the showbiz gravy train they thought they were preserving for themselves.