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Chopra: Drug concerns with Jackson since 2005

June 27, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Michael Jackson's family wants an independent autopsy to determine the cause of his death, The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Saturday.There were unanswered questions surrounding the death of the King of Pop, including the role of the personal cardiologist who was with Michael Jackson when he died, the revered said. The family told Jesse Jackson about its wishes while spent time with them during the past two days, he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office performed an autopsy on the singer's body on Friday but deferred a finding on the cause of death pending further tests that could take more than a month. Coroner's officials said they released Michael Jackson's body to his family late Friday night. Jesse Jackson did not say if an independent autopsy had been arranged.

Spiritual teacher and medical doctor Deepak Chopra said earlier Saturday he had been concerned since 2005 that Michael Jackson was abusing prescription painkillers and most recently spoke to the pop star about suspected drug use six months ago.

Chopra said Jackson, a longtime friend, asked him for painkillers in 2005 when the pop star was staying with him following his trial on sex abuse allegations.

Chopra said he refused but added the nanny of Jackson's children repeatedly contacted him with concerns about Jackson's drug use over the next four years.

Jackson collapsed Thursday at his rented home in Los Angeles.

Jackson appeared to have suffered a heart attack, another person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. A heart attack is a blocking of the arteries that deprives the heart of adequate blood and can cause cardiac arrest.

Janet Jackson arrived at her brother's Holmby Hills estate Saturday, where moving vans pulled up earlier in the day and about eight movers took dollies and packing equipment through the gates.

The vans left after being inside the estate for almost an hour, and it wasn't immediately known what had been taken out.

Most of Jackson's family members were at the Encino compound, where they were contemplating funeral arrangements and caring for his three children.

They are feeling confused, upset and angry by the lack of information about those who were around the pop superstar in his final days, a person close to the family said.

Jackson's family also wants to know more specifics about what role AEG, the concert promoter that was staging his 50-date concert series at London's 02 Arena, was playing in his life, said the person, who requested anonymity because of the delicate nature of the situation.

They also want to know more about the role of his advisers and representatives, who they believe were put in place by the promoter.

AEG spokeswoman Natalie Whorms in London had no comment.

Jackson never communicated to his family who he had in place to handle his business affairs, the person said, adding that they were told by the singer's phalanx of advisers that he likely had a will, but it may be many years old. The family is distrustful of what they are being told - but are determined to find out more, the person said.

"There are decisions going down without the family being in the loop; it's becoming an issue," the person said.

Jackson's brother Jermaine has said it was believed the pop singer went into cardiac arrest, an interruption of the normal heartbeat that can be caused by factors other than a heart attack.

The coroner's office said there were no signs of foul play or trauma.

No family members were present in the mansion when Jackson died Thursday, the person close to the family said. Dr. Conrad Murray, a financially troubled cardiologist, was with him when died. In the call to the emergency dispatcher released by fire officials Friday, an unidentified caller tells a dispatcher that Jackson's doctor is performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Asked by the dispatcher whether anyone saw what happened, the caller answers: "No, just the doctor, sir. The doctor has been the only one there."

Randy Phillips, AEG Live president and chief executive, said Friday it was Jackson who insisted that Dr. Conrad Murray, a financially troubled cardiologist who was with the entertainer when he collapsed Thursday, be put on the tour payroll.

"As a company, we would have preferred not having a physician on staff full-time because it would have been cheaper without the hotels and travel, but Michael was insistent that he be hired," Phillips said. "Michael said he had a rapport with him."

Houston lawyer William M. Stradley said his firm had been hired by Murray.

Police seized Murray's car in search of evidence but have insisted that the doctor has been cooperative and do not consider him a criminal suspect.

Records reveal years of financial troubles for Murray, who practices medicine in California, Nevada and Texas; his Nevada medical practice, Global Cardiovascular Associates, was slapped with more than $400,000 in court judgments, and he faces at least two other pending cases and several tax liens.

The person close to the family said that while there were reports that the singer was distant from his family, Jackson spoke with his mother, Katherine, quite regularly and his father, Joe, had seen his son shortly before his death.

His other eight siblings, including fellow superstar Janet, may not have talked to him recently but were not estranged.

The pop star left behind three children: Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., known as Prince Michael, 12; Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7. The elder children were born to ex-wife Deborah Rowe, while the youngest is his biological son, born to a surrogate mother.

Rowe and Jackson married in 1996 and divorced in 1999.

Phillips said AEG Live held multiple insurance policies covering cancellation of the shows, and that some time in February Jackson submitted to several hours of physicals that the insurance underwriter insisted upon, and that Jackson passed them all.

"We had pretty good coverage, but a lot of it is going to depend on the toxicology results," he said. "We need to know what the cause of death was."

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