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Michael Jackson’s name is all over the headlines as the public is not only mourning the great, late singer/performer, but is virtually obsessed with the cause of his sudden death. One of the things police are clearly investigating is whether there was any wrongdoing by one of his personal California physicians. Now, rumors are circulating of Jackson using an alias to secure medications, and if any doctor facilitated such prescription, this could be a criminal law violation. Since Michael Jackson was in California, the issue of whether controlled substances or non-controlled medications were improperly or illegally administered by a doctor would be governed by the Medical Board of California as well as California State criminal law.

One of the Business and Professions Code sections in California states that

"No physician and surgeon shall be subject to disciplinary action by the Board for prescribing or administering controlled substances in the course of treatment of a person for intractable pain."

(Business and Professions Code Sec. 2241.5(c). Clearly, the State Board of Medicine allows a physician, such as Michael Jackson’s physician, to administer controlled substances if the late singer suffered from intractable pain, but based on many first person reports of his last several weeks, it is dubious whether he suffered intractable pain. Diprivan is a medication/drug supposedly provided to Jackson and there are allegations that he may have been injected with this potent drug the day he died. Actually, no one knows what the toxicology results will show of Jackson’s autopsy-everything right now is hearsay. [Update: I have been advised that this drug may not be a controlled substance, but more on that is discussed in a related article-see below].

Based on a position paper of the Medical Board of California in effect in 1994 and revised in 2007, it would be difficult to charge a physician for a violation of the Code of California based on prescribing a controlled substance for pain (autopsy results are pending) based on this provision also:

"A physician and surgeon may prescribe for, or dispense or administer to, a person under his or her treatment for a medical condition dangerous drugs or prescription controlled substances for the treatment of pain or a condition causing pain, including, but not limited to, intractable pain. (b) No physician and surgeon shall be subject to disciplinary action for prescribing, dispensing or administering dangerous drugs or prescription controlled substances in accordance with this section." Another portion of the State Board pain guidelines states that the above section "does not affect the power of the Board to discipline a physician and surgeon for any act that violates the law, including gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, or incompetence … prescribing on the internet; failure to keep complete and accurate records of purchases and disposals of controlled substances; writing false or fictitious prescriptions for controlled substances, or prescribing, administering or dispensing in violation of the pertinent sections of the Health and Safety Code.

My take is that an accidental overdose of a prescription medication in California (not commenting on North Carolina or Virginia) would not likely be a violation of the State Medical regulations/code, and especially given the position statements of the State Board of Medicine, it would take much more than an accidental overdose to charge one of Jackson’s doctors with a state board regulation violation.

However, the issue of other possible criminal law violations, and medical malpractice causing a wrongful death, are wholly different issues. A doctor may be civilly liable for medical negligence, if this caused Jackson’s sudden death. A doctor providing or injecting a drug that is not properly prescribed for the conditions Jackson suffered may have all kinds of liability. Also, rumors are circulating about Jackson using aliases to obtain drugs, but these rumors have not been attributed to any named source. Any doctor who knowingly facilitated that type of a scheme has potential criminal liability.

See also these related posts:

Michael Jackson’s Physician’s Potential Liability for Prescribing Controlled Substances per the California State Board of Medicine

Exclusive – Jackson & Diprivan – FDA Issued Alert Two Years Ago

Attorney Client & Patient Privacy Rights Surviving Death–Did Michael Jackson’s Former Nurse Ignore Confidentiality and Privacy Rights Under HIPAA?

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, as well as the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY, who handle car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more.



  1. Gravatar for JILL PAUL RN

    Rick - Diprivan is NOT a controlled substance at least here in California. Demerol, certainly, but not Diprivan. I personally think that it should be, since, in the hands of the wrong person, it could be lethal. As I told Jane, we only use it in ICU/CCU and Surgery when a patient is on a ventilator attached to a heart monitor and BIS monitor. Those are our standards at my hospital. Other hospitals in California will vary - many, in their ICU/CCU'S, do not use BIS monitors which monitors the level of sedation by EEG wave activity.

  2. Gravatar for Rick Shapiro
    Rick Shapiro


    Thanks for the heads up on Diprivan not being on a schedule of "controlled substances" in California. As Jane Akre reported its often used by vets on animals. Was Michael Jackson's doctor injecting this drug and why? Once the toxicology results are available we will know much much more-I have a feeling there are going to alot of surprises when that data is discovered.

  3. Gravatar for JILL PAUL RN

    Rick - This is not an injectable drug - It is supplied as a continuous IV medication drip for the otimum effects. It is supplied in 250 cc glass bottles for use only with patients on Ventilators and contolled re monitors etc. It is a short acting Anesthesthia drug (depending on the dose) and yes, it is used in Veterinarian situations before they put the animals to sleep for a procedure. This is not a "one time dose" affair as MJ requested. This will never be found in his system due to the short acting life of the drug. This can cause respiratory depression particulary in view of him taking other narcotics that would enhance this drug,that is, make it more powerful. I understand that MJ had a pulse when he was found. This would all account for these findings. Oh course, that is just my opinion,

  4. Gravatar for Jane Akre
    Jane Akre

    That's very interesting Jill thank you!

    And Rick great research, we'll post it accordingly

  5. Gravatar for David MD
    David MD

    It will be easy to detect in the blood stream. A microscope is all that's needed.

  6. Gravatar for lisa


    Can anyone tell me if Michael Jackson's Dr. had the authority to give him this drug?

    Did he need a prescription to administer it?


    great info on here.


  7. Gravatar for John Pierpont
    John Pierpont

    I'm an anthropologist who lived in several countries where almost ANY drug can bepurchased OTC. Usually this is a clinic or hospital because of the lack of pharmacy

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