Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Doctor’s Take on the Michael Jackson Death


The following is a statement made by Dr. Elaina George, an Otolaryngologist out of Atlanta and advocate for physicians.

‘Michael Jackson did not have a chance’ was my first thought when I read the report that just came out about what caused his untimely and tragic death. I was unprepared for the absolute disregard for the first tenant of the doctors’ Hippocratic Oath – First do no harm.

There was no way that harm would not have come to Mr. Jackson. It was beyond negligent to give him a mixture of three different kinds of sedatives, a muscle relaxant, an antidepressant in addition to Propofol, a general anesthetic that is only used in an operating room setting (because it can stop someone’s breathing). Each of these drugs by themselves can be lethal, but together it is a recipe that will almost definitely kill someone. I can think of no medical scenario that would justify mixing these kinds of drugs. Hopefully, Mr. Jackson’s death will teach us that prescription drugs, though helpful are no substitute for doctors doing everything in their power to protect the health of their patients, including just saying no when it is appropriate.

Anna Nicole and Heath Ledger are two celebrities that died from drug interactions. The death of Michael Jackson and his relationship with Dr. Murray is the most recent example that highlights the danger of the ‘doctor on retainer’. This relationship is based on a contract that makes the doctor an employee, in essence changing a relationship that should be equal, to one where the patient can dictate the course of treatment. This shift in power can potentially blur the lines that must be maintained for a healthy doctor/patient relationship. It then can place a physician in a position where he/she may be prescribing medication in a way that is not clinically appropriate because the patient demands it. This needs to be examined and changed.

As a society we need to take a look at the culture of prescription medication as the cure all. There is a perception that we can treat anything by taking a pill. This concept has been fostered by the pharmaceutical industry and their constant advertising. There are pills to make you happy, perform better sexually, help your memory, make you feel younger etc… In reality all of these medications have one thing in common; they simply manage the symptoms instead of healing the problem. Perhaps the best thing that can come out of the tragedy of Michael Jackson’s death is the examination of our culture of disease. Maybe it will change the paradigm to prevention and to healing disease instead of managing it with an endless list of prescription medications.

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