July 2009 - Michael Jackson Part I: Money, Medicine, and Mayhem
- Created on July 7th, 2009
- By Dr. Mary Harris
What is it about summer that finds us bidding a fond farewell to those wonderful, talented Black men we love so much? We lost Ray Charles in June, 2004, Luther Vandross in July, 2005; Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes in August, 2008. Now, in June 2009 we say good-bye to our beloved Michael Jackson—gone much too soon. My heart broke as I watched Michael’s brother Jermaine on television on Thursday morning tearfully describe his—and his family’s—heartbreak upon learning of Michael’s death.
I still can’t believe that Michael Jackson—the King of Pop has made his transition. I remember Michael the child singing “ABC” and all of the hits that followed with the Jackson 5. I remember Michael the young adult performer going solo. I know most of his popular songs from memory—even if I can’t still do the “moonwalk”. He was a talent that was larger than life—the likes of which I am not likely to see again in my lifetime
While I was tempted to rush to write some commentary on the cause of Michael’s death, I held my pen (and my tongue) until I had some confirmed factual information. The week-long dizzying array of press releases—many of which contradicted each other-- caused me to take pause. The media reports were all over the place: initially death was reported as being caused by an overdose of physician administered Demerol, then a heart attack, then anorexia, then lupus, then an overdose of diprivan. One report even indicated that the entire thing was staged so that the King of Pop could get out of his current contract. To fill the air-time and capitalize on viewer interest, even when facts weren’t available, the press played the speculative “what if” game with anyone and everyone that they could get to make a statement. And there was no shortage of people willing to participate in speculating what may have caused Michael’s death. Again, no fact, just speculative conversation. What a mess—for the press, for the fans, and for Michael’s family. This was not the media’s finest hour.
While there is much that we don’t know (we’re still awaiting toxicology reports), there are some things we know for certain about Michael Jackson; that powerful medications that should only have been administered in the hospital were found in his home; he was suffering from insomnia; even though he had enormous wealth, his personal physician--who’s sole responsibility was to take care of him—was unable to save his life; at least one anesthesiologist has come forward to admit that he induced “sleep” in Michael outside a hospital setting; the DEA is now investigating how Michel was able to have drugs normally reserved for hospital use in his home.
I normally try to end with some “take home message”, but at this point, the only message that I have is that it is all too easy to make links between things that have no connection whatsoever. Someone wise once said to me “believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear”. The link between what we see and what caused what we see is often not as straightforward or simplistic as we might like to think. There is likely much more to this story. Stay tuned for Part 2.
With you on your journey to wellness.
Dr. Mary Harris