DR CONRAD Murray is well known throughout the world, but for the wrong reasons. Michael Jackson, his patient, died under his care.
But how did it all become lugubrious? Dr Murray has been convicted of homicide and is awaiting sentencing. There are a lot of unanswered questions and I am ambivalent about the verdict. Was it a tragic mistake of an assiduous doctor, or was it a case of a doctor giving an apocryphal chronology of events? This is the conundrum of the case.
When a doctor-patient relationship becomes blurred, the consequences could be tragic. In the case of Dr Murray and Michael Jackson, the relationship became ‘employee-employer-friend’ relationship and such a relationship is discouraged because this can impair the doctor’s judgment.
Whether or not Dr Murray gave the fatal dose of propofol, to me, this was not the main issue. Dr Murray treated his patient without proper assessment of risk and benefits. Propofol is not a drug that can be safely administered in a patient’s bedroom without close monitoring of the patient every second. Dr Murray should have known the governing principle of medicine: ‘Do No Harm’.
If a doctor chooses to bend the rules and use unorthodox treatments, he will be judged against current guidelines and what a competent doctor should have done under similar circumstances. Dr Murray should not have agreed to use propofol in Jackson’s bedroom, this falls far short of standard practice. The consequence of his decision to deviate from the standard of care of a doctor was the death of Michael Jackson.
Probity (honesty and trustworthiness) and integrity are at the heart of medical professionalism. Patients must be able to trust doctors with their health and lives. Yet many doctors find themselves in the dock after failing in their duty of care. Doctors should always make the care of their patients their first concern and work within the limits of their competence.
Doctors being human, are not immune to the flaws of humanity and the well-recognised seven sins of greed, lust, wrath, sloth, pride, envy, and gluttony. Unfortunately, Dr Murray is a victim of some of these flaws of mankind.
Greed can be defined as excessive or rapacious desire for wealth. Could this be the case with Dr Murray? Was his main motivation for taking on Michael Jackson driven by a ravenous desire for financial gain? His salary was pegged at more than US$150,000 a month. It is also alleged that he owed more than $780,000 in judgements against him and his medical practice, mortgage payments among other debts.
Incompetence or negligence can result in injury or death of a patient and there are clear instances where Dr Murray failed in his duty of care to his patient. When he found Jackson not breathing, he showed some degree of incompetence in dealing with a patient who has stopped breathing.
Some people ask, could Dr Murray have decided to take on Michael Jackson as his patient just because of his fame? I am reminded of a case I read about recently where a doctor, in a bid to raise his stock, falsified results of his research work and ended up being admonished by the General Medical Council.
Some doctors have a desire to be more important than others, and by doing so commit the sin of pride. I presume someone must have told Dr Murray at some point that his practice was dangerous. If a doctor does not listen to the opinion of others, they will be prone to making mistakes.
Fortunately for patients, wherever doctors work, there is usually a governing body. In the UK, there is the General Medical Council (GMC) and in Zimbabwe there is the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe (MDPCZ). They ensure the patients get the best care they deserve by outlining the principles of good medical practice.
When concern is raised regarding a doctor’s ability to practice due incompetence, physical or mental health, the doctor is ordered to undergo assessments. Concern can be raised by colleagues (whistle blowing) or patients. The governing bodies are committed to the identification, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of impaired practitioners.
If a doctor is convicted of a crime which has nothing to do with his job, this will still be reported to the governing body and the doctor can be removed from the medical register and not allowed to practice. If a doctor is involved in anything that brings the profession into disrepute, they can be sanctioned for this. The governing bodies are usually concerned about the doctor’s judgment and probity.
If you are not happy with the conduct of your doctor, always remember that there is a governing body to turn to and they are always prepared to listen to your story. Your health is your priority, so take care of yourself.