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Conrad Murray trial: Propofol expert blasts Murray on Michael Jackson care

October 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The prosecution's propofol expert blasted Dr. Conrad Murray for what he called repeated violations in his care of Michael Jackson.

Dr. Steven Shafer is a renowned anesthesiologist with 25 years of experience. He has authored more than 160 articles and studied the influence of propofol on intensive care patients based on their weight, gender and age.

Get complete coverage of the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Shafer's research has been used by the Food and Drug Administration to set dozing guidelines for propofol when used in the intensive care unit. He testified that he was not getting paid for his work on the Murray case because he doesn't want to compromise his integrity or profit from what he called a "medical misadventure."

Prosecutors played a video narrated by Shafer explaining the safe administration of propofol. The defense had objected, but the judge allowed the video to be played with irrelevant portions cut out.

From instruments to clear airways to monitors and a dosing pump, Shafer pointed out all the devices essential to safety - and that were absent in Jackson's bedroom.

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"That is our most critical role in anesthesia, is unimpeded flow of air and oxygen to the lungs," Shafer said.

The prosecution highlighted evidence that conflicts with Murray's version of events. Murray claims he gave Jackson only 25 milligrams of propofol, but investigators found in the bedroom a slit IV bag, and inside it, there was a 100-milliter bottle equal to 1,000 milligrams.

Shafer testified that it appeared the vial allegedly opened by Murray showed its top was not opened with a needle to obtain a small dose, but with a spike to release the entire content.

"A needle would never do that, and that's what you would expect to see from a spike," Shafer said.

Shafer testified that Jackson's death by propofol has spread fear in surgery patients across the nation.

"Every day when I'm in the operating room, I tell patients what I'm going to do, and I'm asked the question, 'Are you going to give me the drug that killed Michael Jackson,'" Shafer said. "I get that question daily. This is a fear that patients do not need to have. Propofol is an outstanding drug."

Shafer reiterated that propofol can be safely administered by doctors who know what they're doing.

"What has happened in this case has nothing to do with their experience when they see a doctor for a procedure," he said.

Murray's failures go beyond lack of equipment, Shafer said, stressing that anesthesiologists should remain at the patient's bedside to monitor.

"Anesthesiologists have this moment-by-moment connection to the patient," Shafer said.

And if there was a cardiac arrest as there was for Jackson, Shafer told the jury that the ultimate fallback response should have been to stop and call for help.

Murray is on trial for involuntary manslaughter for Jackson's sudden death on June 25, 2009, at the age of 50. Prosecutors allege Murray tried to hide the fact that he had been giving propofol to Jackson.

Murray, 58, has pleaded not guilty and has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and lose his medical license.

The trial is expected to last five weeks, with Oct. 28 being the estimated last day.

View photos from the involuntary manslaughter trial of Conrad Murray.


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