When Did Michael Jackson Die?
When did Michael Jackson die? How is it that one of world’s most celebrated, widely known and well-compensated entertainers passed away alone in a rented room because of medication "similar to those found during general anesthesia for major surgery"? The full details of that final day may (or may not) be known until the manslaughter trial of Jackson's personal physician in September 2011. In the meantime, it seems Jackson died searching for that most basic human necessity, a good night’s sleep.
Just four months before his death, Michael Jackson called a press conference in March 2009 to announce his "final curtain call" at London’s O2 Arena. After a twelve-year absence from the stage, he was mounting “This Is It,” a series of comeback concerts that preceded his retirement. Since his acquittal in a 2005 child molestation trial, Jackson had either lived overseas or in seclusion. In the intervening years, there were rumors of financial problems, drug addiction, medical problems and physical frailty. Nonetheless, his popularity was still such that the original ten “This Is It” dates sold out in two hours, so additional dates were added.
Jackson hired Dr. Conrad Murray as a personal physician for treatment for his insomnia in May 2009, according to Los Angeles Police Department detectives. Soon thereafter, Jackson began concert rehearsals in Los Angeles, temporarily renting a mansion in the Holmby Hills neighborhood near Beverly Hills. On the night before he died, he returned from rehearsals shortly after midnight. According to court records, Murray had been administering 50 milligrams of propofol, a powerful anesthetic, to Jackson nightly via an intravenous drip. In an attempt to wean Jackson from what he considered an addiction, Dr. Murray had been lowering the dosage and mixing it with other sedatives.
According to Dr. Murray’s affidavit, in the early hours of June 25 he had given Jackson valium at 1:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later, he administered a sedative lorazepam, followed by midazolam at 3 a.m. Murray reported he tried various drugs over the next few hours before giving into Jackson’s demands at 10:40 a.m. and administering 25 milligrams of propofol. He reportedly later found Jackson unresponsive and attempted CPR before calling a member of the house staff to call for help.
On Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 12:21 p.m. PST, Los Angeles paramedics were called to Jackson’s rented mansion by a staff member. An ambulance arrived within three minutes and the paramedics spent 42 minutes trying to revive the Jackson before rushing him via ambulance to UCLA Medical Center. A few hours later, as crowds gathered outside the hospital, his brother Jermaine announced, “My brother, the legendary King of Pop, passed away on Thursday, June 25 at 2.26 p.m.”
The Los Angeles medical examiner found that “the immediate cause” of death for Michael Joseph Jackson, aged 50, was acute propofol intoxication. There were also traces of lidocaine, diazepam, nordiazepam, lorazepam, midazolam and ephedrine in his blood. The Los Angeles criminal court system has not yet determined whether Dr. Murray “did unlawfully and without malice” cause his death. A powerful sedative like propofol requires constant monitoring and the coroner’s report states that the standard of care for administering propofol was not met. Since neither the paramedics nor the emergency room staff were able to resuscitate Jackson, he most likely died in that rented room alone.
After more than 40 years on the public stage, Jackson’s actual “final curtain call” was a large scale funeral. Some questions on the particulars of that final day may be answered at the manslaughter trial. What’s likely to never be fully understood is why one of the biggest pop stars in the world required surgical level medication to find some peace.