Autopsy Reveals Michael Jackson Was in Fairly Good Health

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Associated Press
Friday, October 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1 -- Michael Jackson's arms were covered with punctures, his face and neck were scarred and he had tattooed eyebrows and lips, but he wasn't the sickly skeleton of a man portrayed by tabloids, according to his autopsy report obtained by the Associated Press.

In fact, the Los Angeles County coroner's report shows Jackson was a fairly healthy 50-year-old before he died of an overdose. His 136 pounds were in the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man. His heart was strong with no sign of plaque buildup. And his kidneys and most other major organs were normal.

Still, Jackson had health issues: arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers, and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries. Most serious was his lungs, which the autopsy report said were chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that might have left him short of breath.

However, according to the document, the lung condition was not serious enough to be a direct or contributing cause of death.

"His overall health was fine," said Zeev Kain, chairman of the anesthesiology department at the University of California, Irvine, who reviewed a copy of the autopsy report for the AP. "The results are within normal limits." Kain was not involved in the autopsy. The full autopsy report has not been released publicly, but the AP obtained a copy.

Jackson died at his rented Los Angeles mansion June 25 after his personal physician, Conrad Murray, administered the anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep, court documents state.

Murray told police he left the room to use the bathroom and phone records show he also made calls for 47 minutes around the time Jackson encountered problems. When Murray realized Jackson was unresponsive, he began frantic efforts to revive him, but Jackson never regained consciousness and was declared dead at the UCLA Medical Center.

The coroner's office announced last month that Jackson's death was a homicide caused by "acute propofol intoxication," with the other sedatives listed as a contributing factor. Murray is the target of what Los Angeles police term a manslaughter investigation and has been interviewed twice by police.

Chief Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran and Christopher Rogers carried out an extensive review of Jackson's body and ordered a toxicology screening the morning after the singer's death to look for drugs in his system.

Aside from propofol and the sedatives, the only substances found in his system were the local anesthetic, lidocaine, sometimes used to numb injection sites and ephedrine, a commonly used resuscitation stimulant.

No other drugs -- legal or otherwise -- were detected, nor was any alcohol.

The autopsy findings cut off a potential defense for Murray -- that Jackson hid serious preexisting conditions that increased the risk of death from the drugs he willingly took. Even if he did hide a condition such as his weakened lungs, a prosecutor could argue Murray should have detected the condition before administering drugs, said Michael Brennan, a clinical law professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in criminal defense.

"A doctor has some obligation to know what his patient's physical condition is," Brennan said. "The doctor is going to try to substantiate whatever the patient told him . . . and not simply rely on a patient's descriptions of his physical condition." At the time of his death Jackson was preparing for a series of comeback concerts in London. Rehearsals were rigorous and there were questions about whether Jackson would be physically able to hold up.

But aside from his lungs, the autopsy report did not identify any serious physical problems that might have limited Jackson's ability to perform.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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