Michael Jackson is back in the news, with the Los Angeles Country coroner ruling that his death was caused by a cocktail of drugs. Jackson’s death has been ruled a homicide, and his personal physician is now likely to be charged with manslaughter.

The claim came as a report by the Los Angeles chief medical examiner unsealed in a Houston court today revealed Jackson’s body contained a lethal level of the powerful anaesthetic propofol, also known as diprivan.

But what was the cause of Jackson’s death and why was it ruled a homicide? Crikey digs for details:

Q: How did Michael Jackson die?

A: The Los Angeles Country coroner ruled that a combination of propofol and several sedatives was the cause Michael Jackson’s death, a law enforcement officer told The Associated Press.

According to the search warrant and affidavit, Jackson’s personal physician, Dr Conrad Murray, said that he’d been treating Jackson for insomnia for the past six weeks, giving Jackson 50mg of propofol diluted with lidocaine every night via intravenous drip to assist Jackson in sleeping. Murray told detectives he tried to wean the singer off propofol, but the night before Jackson’s death he gave in to Jackson’s requests for propofol and administered 25 milligrams. The combination of propfol with several other sedatives proved fatal.

Read the full affidavit here:

Q: What is propofol?

A: Also known as diprivan, propofol is a “short-acting, intravenous, nonbarbiturate sedative agent“. It is used for the induction of general anesthesia for adults and children, maintenance of general anesthesia for adults and children, maintenance of general anesthesia, and sedation in medical contexts, such as intensive-care unit sedation for incubated, mechanically ventilated adults, and in procedures such as colonoscopy and endoscopy, as well as in dental surgery.

Q: Why is it being classified as murder?

A:The Los Angeles County Court has ruled Michael Jackson’s death a homicide. A designation of homicide means that Jackson died at the hands of another, but does not necessarily mean that a crime was committed. The finding that Jackson died from a lethal drug combination, however, makes it increasingly likely that criminal charges will be filed against Dr Murray Conrad, who was with Jackson when he died. Dr Murray is already the subject of a manslaughter probe headed by Los Angeles police. Manslaughter, like murder, concerns the killing of one human being by another.

Q: Why did it take so long to come up with the findings?

A: After an initial autopsy, the cause of death was deferred in order to complete more toxicology tests. Because Jackson’s death has such worldwide interest, the coroner’s office would want to make sure that they didn’t miss anything in the investigation. In addition, some drugs are not always evident in the preliminary screenings.

Q: Isn’t it just an accidental overdose?

A: The finding that Jackson died from a lethal drug combination administered by his personal physician means that Jackson’s death was not just an accidental overdose.

View our Crikey Clarifier archive

Peter Fray

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