Debbie Rowe, former wife of Michael Jackson, is having to testify this week about Jackson’s use of propofol before Dr. Conrad Murray began treating him. The trial involves AEG Live, the concert promoter Jackson was working with before his death, and a lawsuit brought against them by members of Jackson’s family. They say the company would have done anything to get Jackson to perform, even when he clearly wasn’t well, and that they are responsible, in part, for his death. Also involved is Murray, who injected Jackson with what turned out to be a fatal dose of propofol in 2009. He is currently serving a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
“The symptoms that Mr. Jackson was exhibiting were consistent with what someone might expect to see of someone suffering from total sleep deprivation over a chronic period,” Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School sleep expert, testified earlier in the trial.
Rowe says that Jackson had trouble sleeping between shows during a 1997 tour and asked doctors to find something that would help him rest. His general practitioner, Dr. Allen Metzger, arranged for the pop star to have a dose of propofol, a surgical anesthetic, after Jackson tried several different sedatives to no avail.
“I think they tried it and it hadn’t worked and if he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t perform,” she testified. Jackson “was at the end of his rope; he didn’t know what else to do.”
The trouble began, Rowe says, when Jackson suffered burns in an accident during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. After enduring surgery in 1993 to repair his skin, he had to rely on pain medication.
“Michael had a very low pain tolerance, and his fear of pain was incredible,” Rowe testified. “And I think that doctors took advantage of him that way. Michael respected doctors immensely, that they went to school, that they studied and to do no harm. Unfortunately, some of the doctors decided that when Michael was in pain or something that they would try to outbid on who could give him the better drug and so he listened to those doctors.”
AEG Live, who hired Murray to oversee Jackson’s medical needs, says they had no idea Murray was injecting the singer with propofol. However, Jackson’s family says that company executives ignored the signs of Jackson’s failing health in the months before he died.