On Wednesday, prosecutor David Walgren called up his last witness, Dr. Steven Shafer, in the involuntary manslaughter case against Dr. Conrad Murray. The medical expert testified that the defendant, Murray, committed 17 flagrant violations of the standard care of his patient, and thus, was directly responsible for the death of the late-Michael Jackson.
At one point in the testimony, Shafer testified that Murray was “clueless” and “unconscionable” when using the powerful anesthetic propofol and administering it to Jackson as a sleep aid. “We are in pharmacological never-never land here, something that was done to Michael Jackson and no one else in history to my knowledge,” he told jurors.
When Murray did not know what to do once Jackson stopped breathing, Shafer was at a loss for words, noting that it was “inexcusable” that Murray did not 911 immediately.
Shafer, who is a Columbia University professor and researcher, wrote the package insert that guides doctors in the use of the anesthetic. He gave a crash course on propofol to the jurors, explaining how and where Murray lacked the knowledge and care of a physician to his patient. Shafer noted key moments such as Murray not taking detailed notes when administering the drug, and essentially cutting corners in the procedure. After sedating Jackson, Murray was seen on his cell phone, which showed lack of care on Murray’s end by not carefully monitoring his patient.
“The worst disasters occur in sedation and they occur when people cut corners,” Shafer said. Specifically in this case, “virtually none of the safeguards were in place,” he added. He also told jurors that keeping records is essential, and with the lack of it, it was a violation of Jackson’s rights, especially if something went wrong. “He has a right to know what was done to him,” Shafer said. “With no medical record, the family has been denied that right.”
The researcher also told jurors that it appeared Murray intended to give Jackson large doses of propofol on a nightly basis. Records indicated that Murray purchased 130 100ml vials of propofol in the nearly three months before Jackson’s death, which is “an extraordinary amount to purchase to administer to a single individual.”
Shafer also made sure to let the jurors know that he was testifying for the prosecution for no ulterior or money motive, other than to help restore public confidence in propofol and doctors that properly administer it. “I am asked every day in the operating room, ‘Are you going to give me the drug that killed Michael Jackson,'” Shafer explained. “This is a fear that patients do not need to have.”
To conclude the day’s questioning, prosecutor David Walgren asked Shafer, “Would it be your opinion that Conrad Murray is directly responsible for the death of Michael Jackson for his egregious violations and abandonment of Michael Jackson?”
Shafer replied, “Absolutely.”