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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Siedah Garrett

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MJJC: Were you a Michael Jackson fan before you met him? How did your perception of him changed after you met him / worked with him / toured with him?

Siedah: I had been a Jackson 5 fan my entire life. In fact, during my childhood, Michael Jackson was my play husband. I began to love Michael when he became a solo artist, and I really fell in love with him when he decided to record my song. It was then that I realized that he was more socially conscious than anyone had given him credit for.

MJJC: What was your first impression of Michael?

Siedah: He was so cool, so unexpectedly approachable.

MJJC: Where did the idea of Man In The Mirror come from?

Siedah: Two years before I wrote the song, I was in a writing session with composer John Beasley. In the heat of our session, he decided to answer an incoming call, and responded as if he really wasn’t busy at all. I was seething. I then heard him say ”The man? What man? Oh, the man in the mirror.” That phrase stuck in my mind, and I wrote it down in my lyric book of random ideas. Two years later, as my new writing partner Glen Ballard was searching for sounds on his synthesizer, I came across the notation in my lyric book, and it just jumped off of the page.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Andy Picheta (producer of Michael Forever Tribute)

As you remember Jackson family's "Michael Forever" tribute in Cardiff had raised a lot of interest and anger among the fans back in 2011. On August 10, Andy Picheta, one of the producers of Michael forever Tribute,  has released a book called How I Paid Tribute to Michael Jackson : The story of Michael Forever The Tribute Concert detailing what went behind the scenes of the tribute concert.

We approached Andy Picheta for a Q&A and he has agreed to it. Below you can find Andy's answers to our questions. Enjoy

MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Andy Picheta

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MJJC: Why did you decide to write this book? Why now? What do you hope your book will accomplish?

Andy Picheta: The process of Michael Forever was a huge, funny, tragic and bizarre happening that needed telling. I hope my book serves as a lesson to entertainment entrepreneurs: to respect the talent, and the fans. I hope it reaches a wide audience, and makes a lot of people laugh a little.  Why now? – couldn’t write it earlier, and would have forgotten a ton of stuff if I’d written it later

MJJC: How did your key partners in this project (Chris, Jeffre, Parojim) really felt about MJ? Would anyone call himself a hardcore fan? A casual fan maybe? Was it anyone’s motivation to actually really pay a tribute, or was it all just business?

Andy Picheta: As a professional, I approach every project with a real desire to do the best I can. I’m not a fan of Michael Jackson in the same way you are.  I’m dispassionate, but very aware that Michael (as every artist I have worked with) put his heart and soul into every lyric, all his talent into every dance step, and did everything to his utmost. I therefore can do no less with my work; it is crucial for me to respect the artist when filming or staging their work. I too put my heart and soul into the film or show, because to do less would be unprofessional and disrespectful. I want the best I can deliver, to be sure to do the right thing at the right time. I’m not unique in this; the desire to do the best possible was exhibited by everyone who worked on the show, from Ron Weisner to the assistant’s assistant. It’s why we stuck it out to the end.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Joe Vogel

MJJC is happy to bring you the second Joe Vogel Q&A about his books and Michael's music. This Q&A is planned around the  e-book release of "Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson" as well as Joe Vogel's new book "Featuring Michael Jackson.

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MJJC: What peculiarity of Michael Jackson that initially attracted and motivated you to delve into the study of his music? In other words why did you decided to analyze specifically Michael's work rather than any other artist's work? I guess there are many reasons why you appreciate him, many of them you probably discovered during your work, but I'd like to know exactly what was, so to speak, the trigger 

Joe Vogel: Michael Jackson was just so different. I’m fascinated by artists that defy conventions and categories, artists that can take us places we’ve never been before, that challenge us. Michael, of course, paid a terrible price for being bold and different. When I started my book in 2005, the vitriol, hate and deceit being directed at him was awful. If anyone takes a look at media archives from that time, the level of callousness and cruelty is appalling. And I remember watching it unfold and being really angry. At first, I envisioned writing a sort of alternative biography, something more humane and nuanced and objective than what existed at the time, but as the project developed I really felt strongly about letting Michael’s creative work be the focal point and revealing the man through the music.

MJJC: You started writing “Man in the Music” book before Michael's death and were going to interview him. Did you have questions prepared that you were going to ask Michael, and if yes, can you give a few an example questions? Even if you had no questions prepared, what would you have asked Michael if you had the chance?  

Joe Vogel: I did have questions prepared. Most were about process. Michael was always so vague about his creative process. Of course, part of the problem was that so few interviewers ever asked him in-depth questions about his creativity. So my questions were all about details. I wasn’t as interested in sensational questions (how much plastic surgery?) or big questions (how do you want to be remembered?) as specifics (Tell me about these lyrics in “Stranger in Moscow” or this panther segment of “Black or White?). I wanted to show him the chapters I had done so he could see how it was laid out, how it was all about the art, and then proceed from there in terms of filling gaps and gathering new stories.

MJJC: In your last piece "The Top Ten Michael Jackson Songs of All Time" you wrote "If I were forced to gather together a group of songs to hold up against the best work of the Beatles or Bob Dylan or Prince, these are the ones I would bring." I'd like to know, if you were asked to put together an album not for the fans, but for people who do not know Michael Jackson or have never appreciated his music, which songs would you choose to include in this album to make these people know and understand Michael Jackson, the artist and the man, and his music?

Joe VogelIn a way, that was part of the philosophy of my Top Ten list: What ten songs really showcase Michael’s genius, working in different styles from different parts of his career. But if I were to throw together a mix for a non-fan, I might do: In the Back, Butterflies, Cheater, In the Closet, Give in to Me, Morphine, Stranger, 2Bad, Human Nature, Little Susie, Will You Be There, Threatened. I’d probably go with a lot of lesser-known tracks, because part of the problem with Michael Jackson is his classic songs are so familiar many people can’t hear them anymore.

MJJC: What has been the most surprising thing you have learned from your research on Michael Jackson?

Joe Vogel: I don’t know that there is one thing. I was really impressed with the intelligence that went into his work. I loved the stories about him tracking people down, calling in the middle of the night, going to an old folk’s home to visit Walt Disney’s massage therapist, reaching out to all the people he respected or admired. He was so curious, which is such a great quality for an artist.

MJJC:Why do you think so many overlook Michael's work after Thriller/Bad?

Joe Vogel: That’s a very complicated question. Part of it was a backlash to his success, part of it had to do with race, part of it was about his otherness and the media caricature that was constructed. And part of it was just sheer laziness. Critics latched onto a simple narrative—rags to riches to ruins—and couldn’t seem to find the intellectual acuity to move beyond that and recognize the evolution in Jackson’s art.

MJJC: Referring to Michael Jackson's music you often use terms like “he re-invented”. That sounds to me like an attempt to state - somehow - he has been the first to create something new in music while you are conscious that some other, although less publicized, musicians already did that before MJ. Is it correct? And if not, why you say he "reinvented" instead of "invented"? 

Joe Vogel: Well, no one creates out of a vacuum so I think I’m skeptical of the term “invention” for any artist. You always draw from what comes before you. Michael didn’t invent R&B or soul or disco, but he stylized these genres in ways that hadn’t been done before. I actually think Michael did, for all intents and purposes, invent “pop” as we know it today; but I think he re-invented it with the Dangerous album. Similarly, I might feel comfortable saying, with qualification, that Michael “invented” modern music videos. Of course, they existed before Michael; but he had an enormously profound impact on what they became.

MJJC: What do you think about those rock journalists who write about “criteria” in music, stating that “innovation” and “influence” are the most important criteria to judge music and according to these criteria don’t consider Michael Jackson an important musician in pop history?

Joe Vogel: Innovation and influence are important criteria, but they are criteria Michael meets in a major way. Look at the musical landscape today: Michael’s influence is everywhere. That being said, I don’t think Michael Jackson’s greatness is in any way tied to the existence of Justin Bieber, just as the Beatles aren’t assessed by their influence on the Jonas Brothers.

MJJC: Do you think Michael's artistry and his impact on pop culture will be thoroughly examined by more scholars in the future?

Joe Vogel: Absolutely. It’s already happening. There has been a proliferation of scholarship on Jackson over the past few years, including journals and conferences. He’s being taught in many different fields—music, film studies, English, dance, visual studies, cultural studies, African American studies, etc.—at universities around the world.

What seems to be taking a bit more time is serious writing on MJ aimed at a more mainstream audience. This is an audience I have been trying to help build with my books and articles. There are still a lot of people for whom Michael is more of a celebrity or entertainer than a serious artist. It’s strange because Michael has such an enormous fan base, but the audience for this type of work is still relatively small. There is quite a ways to go to catch up to the Beatles, or Dylan, or even Springsteen and U2.

MJJC: Were you as frustrated as fans were for Michael being reduced to tabloid caricature, and his music and achievements was basically dismissed? Do you think the tide is turning and people are finally seeing him as brilliant showman and musician and his music is not dismissible?

Joe Vogel: The tide is definitely turning. There’s been an enormous shift in public perception since 2009. It’s very sad that’s what it took for people to be reminded of his genius, but that’s the way it often goes with artists of his caliber.  I had the privilege of being a consultant for the upcoming Bad 25 documentary by Spike Lee and watching that footage was just incredible. The more people are exposed to Michael Jackson, the artist, the more his legacy will thrive.

MJJC: What is your favorite MJ album? Song?

Joe Vogel: My favorites change from month to month, year to year. My favorite album right now is Bad, especially the Bad outtakes and demos. Favorite songs right now: “Destiny,” “Cheater” and “She Drives Me Wild”

MJJC: How are the Stranger in Moscow and Scared Of The Moon pieces you are working on coming along? Do you have any idea when they might be released?

Joe Vogel: Unfortunately, both are on the backburner right now. These types of projects are nearly impossible to find publishers for, so they present a lot of challenges. Most likely I would have to do them independently as I did for “Earth Song.”

MJJC: Who really wrote "On the line"? Very confusing information Spike Lee said Babyface wrote the song, but Warner/Chappell's website & Ultimate, both list MJ as the writer.

Joe Vogel: My understanding is that it was co-written by Jackson and Babyface.

MJJC: Will you include new chapters in the paperback version of Man in the Music?

Joe Vogel: Umm…probably not new chapters, but definitely new material within existing chapters.

MJJC:After "Featuring Michael Jackson", what should we expect from you (regarding MJ and otherwise)? Do you have any more books about Michael planned? Such as books about Michael’s music videos or unreleased songs? Or even a book about Michael’s personal life?

Joe Vogel: There are endless projects that could be done on Michael (I have a few in mind), but my next major book will be on a different artist. No current plans to write on Michael’s unreleased songs or a biography.

MJJC Note: You can find Amazon links to Joe Vogel's books below and in near future we will have another Joe Vogel surprise for you all. Keep following us and Joe Vogel :)

Featuring Michael Jackson: Collected Writings on the King of Pop  - http://www.amazon.com/Featuring-Michael-Jackson-Collected-Writings/dp/0981650686

Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson  - http://www.amazon.com/Man-Music-Creative-Michael-Jackson/dp/1402779380

Earth Song: Inside Michael Jackson's Magnum Opus  - http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Song-Inside-Michael-Jacksons/dp/0981650694

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with DDA David Walgren

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MJJC is happy to bring you DDA (and soon to be Judge) David Walgren's answers to MJJCommunity's Exclusive Q&A.

From the start we have stated that not all of the questions would be sent to DDA Walgren. I and some members of MJJC Case team selected the final set of questions. We have omitted hoax / believer questions and questions about civil trials as they were irrelevant.

I have also notified that due to DDA Walgren being prosecutor in this case there could be questions he cannot answer. These topics included different possible charges, restitution and evidence related questions.

Enjoy the answers and please join me to say a big thank you to DDA David Walgren for generously agreeing to this Q&A despite his busy schedule.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A With Jermaine Jackson

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MJJC: You occasionally call out celebrities who call Michael a drug addict, and we love you for it. However, you seem to stay silent when your own family calls Michael an addict. What is the truth? Are you at odds with certain family members that continue to call Michael a drug addict? Have you ever told them to stop it or to try and word their comments better?

Jermaine Jackson: I'm not at odds with anyone because everyone accepts that Michael died due to Propofol intoxication, and he used it because he was desperate to sleep, not because he was addicted. 

I personally felt it was important to point out the difference between Michael's one time addiction to painkillers, and the sensationalist addiction talk of him being "a junkie" that the media and Murray wrongly attached to his death. That was why I wrote what I did and why I called out all the bull-crap during the trial.

My siblings shared private conversations and concerns with our brother about his addiction around 2001/02 time, and they are entitled to talk about it, but talking about that period does not mean they are calling him a drug addict in 2009. He wasn't. 

MJJC: Why do you and many in your family continue to down play what Michael said was abuse in the hands of Joe? Obviously Michael was deeply affected by it. You and your family always say its discipline when it's not. Don't you think Michael has a right to tell it how he lived it and how for him it was abuse, whether you agree with it or not?

Jermaine Jackson: Yes, Michael had the right to tell it, and so do I because I experienced the same discipline from Joseph. I was disciplined. I was not abused. He treated us the same and I don't apologise for attempting to place all of this into context. In every family, there will be different perspectives of the same event. I have given mine. 

I will say this: I read many biographies that invented what Joseph was supposed to have done. The majority of it was pure fantasy or wildly exaggerated. It was designed to paint him as evil. Joseph has never been evil. Michael would agree with that. 

I don't dismiss Michael's experience and feelings. What I have tried to do is balance what happened and do what Michael tried to teach us all: be more understanding and more compassionate. That's why I used his Oxford University speech in the book because he didn't have the judgment or vitriol that some fans have for Joseph. He forgave him. He didn't judge him. He also loved him and history deserves to know that. 

MJJC: What made you feel that Tohme Tohme was someone worthy of meeting Michael and to be in business with? What were your thoughts of Michael being on tape saying he doesn't like Tohme and how he controls everything Michael does including his money and keeping him from seeing anyone he didn't want Michael to see?

Jermaine Jackson: I've explained this over many pages in the book because I know how concerned fans have been and I wanted to explain everything from the very beginning. The full story is in there. I can't go over it all again. But the biggest misunderstanding is that I introduced him to Michael as some kind of partner or manager. That's not true. 

I first met Tohme-Tohme as someone who could help fund the Crystal City project (described in the book) which I was working on with Michael around 2007 time. I had four meetings with Michael to get down our vision on paper. He was all about it. 

I met with Tohme-Tohme to find a consortium to raise the $5-6 billion we needed. Not once did I mention to him that Michael was involved in this project. Not once.

Soon afterwards, I heard that Neverland was in trouble. There was talk of foreclosure. That was the first time I went to Tohme-Tohme about Michael (April 13 2008) because if this guy could find billions for a leisure project, he probably knew businessmen who had $23-24 million to save Neverland. That was my thinking. 

Long story short, Tohme-Tohme introduced me to Tom Barrack at Colony Capital. Make no mistake; Tom saved my brother's financial ass. Folk out there have no idea how close to the wire things got. 

From that moment on, I wasn't part of the equation and Tohme-Tohme turned against me. He was no friend of mine and I know that he became no friend of Michael's. But, from April 2008, the choices and the appointments that were made had nothing to do with me. Michael was his own man with his own mind. 

MJJC: Why was Tohme-Tohme allowed at UCLA Medical Centre and even allowed to speak on June 25th, after Michael Jackson had fired him? 

Jermaine Jackson: I don't know why he was there or who authorized it. When I arrived, he was already there in the corridor, but you've got to understand that I wasn't thinking about any of that, or why he was allowed to speak. That day was a blur. 

MJJC: What is your opinion about Tohme-Tohme now?

Jermaine Jackson: My opinion of him? He was the same as everyone else who came and went in Michael's life - he didn't understand the revolving door he was caught in. I do think his heart was in the right place but I think the access went to his head. His manner was too sharp and fiery for Michael in the end.

MJJC: Do you believe Dr Murray’s actions on June 25th directly caused Michael's death or do you hold Latoya's view of what happened? In other words who do you think is responsible for Michael death?

Jermaine Jackson: With the wrongful death lawsuit going on, this is not something I want to get into, but I'll say this: Murray was the person who injected the fatal dose of Propofol, but that fact doesn't remove questions that I still have. Also, Michael's death was preventable by others, long before those early hours of June 25th 2009. He was dying long before he died and no one did anything and no one alerted us, his family. Had I known what I know now, I'd have been in there shutting it down and getting him to a hospital. 

MJJC: Why were you taken aback by Michael not naming his brothers, sisters and father in his Will? Was it because he took care of the family in life that you believed naturally he would do the same in case of death? Was this something Michael ever discussed with the family?

Jermaine Jackson: Who says I was taken aback? We didn't discuss Michael's death. Why would we? The rest of the family has had musical careers and we've got and always had our own money. 

Michael did what a father should in a will - he took care of his kids, and he also named our mother. By including her, he included us. The lioness takes care of her cubs, and that philosophy has always been understood in our family. 

MJJC: What do you think about the individuals that Michael appointed to run his Estate? And are you happy with his choice? Why does it seem as if your family is forever going against the Estate, by initiating projects without Estate approval and making hostile remarks to the press about the people running the Estate?

Jermaine Jackson: No Jackson needs anyone's approval to initiate a project that celebrates or remembers our own brother. We were not appointed hypothetically in 2002. We were appointed by blood at birth.

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MJJC: Why you and your family always say that you wanted to work with Michael again for albums and concerts when everybody knows that Michael didn't want to work with his family anymore? For example: on October 29, 2008 you announced a Family reunion. The next day, Michael released a statement that he didn't have any plans to reunite with his siblings. Why did you make that announcement without conferring with Michael first?

Jermaine Jackson: Who says that "everybody knows he didn't want to work with us anymore"? They cite one date and one example and apply it forever?? 

Everybody doesn't know, because Michael had agreed to do one "final" concert with the brothers and that was because Mother wanted to see us all on stage one last time in her life-time, not thinking that Michael would pass before her. 

He made that promise to her, not us, and we hadn't really spoken about it. But that concert was included in the many plans he had for after This Is it, including spot-dates in China and a performance at the Super Bowl 2010 (plans made prior to John Branca's return)

MJJC: Your ex-wife, Margaret Maldonado, said you were intensely jealous of Michael. Suzanne de Passe said a similar thing on Oprah in 1993 about the brothers being jealous of Michael. Were you, or were you not jealous of Michael at any point in your life? And what do you make of others who knew you personally, stating that you were jealous of your brother?

Jermaine Jackson: Too many folk listen to what others say. I don't care what others think they know, and it doesn't matter if they know me personally or don't - they can't know what I'm feeling on the inside. There is not one person out there who can say with any truth that I have said, shouted or complained about Michael in any jealous way. There were differences from time to time, but never jealousy.

I remain as proud of Michael as I always was when he was alive, and this is one reason why I wrote the book - to hear about our life and our journey in my words, no one else's. 

MJJC: In your book and your media interviews promoting it, you were adamant about the importance of family and how individually you were weaker compared to how you were collectively as a family unit. It was a theme that you related to Michael's professional career, when you talked about how music industry outsiders tried to separate him from his brothers and that this was not a good outcome. How do you explain then why you were the first brother to break away from the family group when you stayed with Motown to pursue a solo career rather than follow your father and brothers to their better record deal at Epic? If your career had blown up and been as successful as Michael, do you think that you would have been so keen to return to the family group?

Jermaine Jackson: I don't think I'd thought too much about me leaving the Jackson 5 until it came to the book, and it was pointed out to me that my leaving could have been an example set to Michael. If it's okay for me to break away, it was okay for him to break away. I see that in a way I never did before. 

But I use Joseph's story about the tree and the branches...how we are stronger when tight together, not separate. If you read the book, you'll see how lonely I was and how all I wanted was to reunite with the brothers. Regardless of success, I was always keen to return to those roots. 

That is a different thing to people in Hollywood who surrounded Michael and wanted him in isolation. I lay it all out in the book for folk to make up their own mind and ask themselves one question: Michael was a superstar in his own right, but was he better off as a person when isolated from family? I'll tell you now: had family been at The Forum or Staples for This Is It, those rehearsals would have been stopped long before and Michael would still be with us today. 

MJJC: In your book you wrote that you did NOT write "Word to the Badd" but in 1991, you DID interviews--both live and print--where you in no uncertain terms stated that you wrote the song. For example in a Times interview you said “I wrote this song--and it came from the bottom of my heart--was to help my little brother get a grip on reality. “. Which version is the truth? And regardless do you accept any responsibility for the song Word to the Badd? Even if you didn't write it, wouldn't you agree that singing/recording it is just as bad?

Jermaine Jackson: I have heard how some folk are keen to pin me to this kind of reported word or the odd sentence on video. The bottom line is that I didn't write it and everyone involved knows I didn't write it, regardless of what I said or didn't say in this interview or that interview. No one mentions the interviews where I said I didn't write it do they??!

The true story is the one I've told many times, and the one that is in the book. I accepted responsibility a long time ago and my remorse was true. It is a shame to me that some fans cannot move on from this in the same way Michael did. But honestly, what matters to me is that we straightened things out as brothers. 

MJJC: If you really have vitiligo as you stated in your book, what prevented you from coming out when everyone doubted Michael had the disease? Don't you think that it could have benefited Michael if you would have came out to his defence and said you had a vitiligo spot once, instead of mocking your brother in a song about his skin change? 

Jermaine Jackson: For us, it was nonsense to hear all those tabloid lies about Michael bleaching his skin but I'll say what Michael said: if we spent our time extinguishing every rumor and every lie that was ever said or written, none of us would have had lives. 

When I first started writing the book, I didn't intend to include anything about this. We are (as a family) very private. But I mentioned it one day and my ghost-writer thought it was significant. We talked about it and I agreed to include it after being persuaded that it was important information. 

MJJC: You claimed in your book that Michael didn't own a cell phone. There are many pictures, bodyguards, friends confirming Michael did own and use cell phones. Is it possible that Michael simply didn't want to talk to you?

Jermaine Jackson: Folk's interpretation of a photo doesn't mean that Michael owned his own cell just because he was pictured with one. To the best of my knowledge, there was no cell you could call Michael direct on unless it was someone else's. 

MJJC: What was going through your mind when you thought that telling everyone there was an 'escape plan' [if Michael was found guilty in 2005] was a good idea? Any escape or leaving the country during a trial (before or after the verdict) would have been a felony. Do you regret writing that?

Jermaine Jackson: Why would I regret writing it??! Once again, this is an example of newspapers misreporting what I had written in the book. I didn't say there was a plan "if convicted". I said it was a plan I had after the first few days of evidence. I didn't say it was rational, but it was the way I was thinking without the benefit of hindsight.

It didn't occur to me how right or wrong it was. This was a time when my brother was pursued, arrested and put on trial for something he didn't do, and I was supposed to sit back and trust the system that was screwing him? I had zero faith and I had nightmares about an innocent man going to jail. I have written in the book about the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing in that context. It's the truth, and I don't regret writing the truth. 

MJJC: To what extent, Michael owes his success to you and the rest of your family? Do you believe Michael's legacy is his own, and stands apart from the Jacksons or Jackson 5 legacy?

Jermaine Jackson: To the same extent that Paul McCartney owes his success to The Beatles. Michael's platform was the Jackson 5. Everyone comes from somewhere.

Michael's legacy is his own and he stands in his own remarkable light, and we feel proud as brothers to have shared in his early days because the Jackson 5 days are part of the Michael Jackson success story. History can't separate them. 

MJJC: While the Jackson family is an amazing musical force and they are American musical royalty, is the Jackson family aware that many fans do not see the Jackson family's legacy and Michael Jackson's legacy as one and the same - especially overseas, where Michael's fan base is so large? How do you think you can grow your Jackson family legacy without alienating Michael Jackson fans?

Jermaine Jackson: I think I've partly answered this one with the previous question. We don't wish to alienate anyone, because Michael had the most amazing fans who are fiercely proud of his legacy as much as we are. Michael's legacy and the Jackson legacy are interwoven without being one and the same. I think that's the best way to put it...our legacy started off on the same track and then Michael's track separated and went on its own way to create another legacy on top of the Jackson 5 legacy. 

MJJC: After all the privacy and protection Michael insisted on for his kids, why is your family promoting the kids and disregarding their privacy - especially with public Twitter accounts that expose them to haters. Do you see how putting the kids out there seem to fans to directly contradict everything their father wanted for them as children/young people? Some fans feel Michael's wishes are being disrespected. Please help us understand.

Jermaine Jackson: We are not disregarding their privacy, and Michael's wishes are not being disrespected. Those kids are fiercely protected. 

Michael entrusted his children to our mother's care because he knew the love, care and attention they would receive. As any parent knows, it is a fine line between saying "no" and respecting your child's wishes. As they grow and evolve, so must the decisions taken that affect their lives, development and ambitions.

MJJC: Are you aware that the internet blog where Jordan Chandler retracted his allegations against Michael is a hoax? In TV interviews you and Mrs Jackson when defending Michael from the child abuse allegations use this argument to prove Michael's innocence and because it is false it has the opposite effect of making viewers continue to question the accusations against Michael. There are so many good arguments to support Michael's innocence and it is extremely frustrating for fans and extremely damaging towards your brother when an argument which is clearly a lie is used.

Jermaine Jackson: I don't know what Internet blog is being referred to?? 

Michael's attorney Tom had a witness that was prepared to testify that Jordan Chandler had told him the allegations were untrue (should he have appeared as a witness in 2005) The boy had privately retracted it, and Tom was going to prove it. I think that's as good as any argument can get!

MJJC: Do you still feel strongly against the Cascio tracks? If so then do you or any other family member's plan to make issue with any future MJ albums that include any more Cascio tracks?

Jermaine Jackson: For now, I'll say what I've always said on this issue: when has Michael's music and voice ever been released with a question mark over it, as to whether it's 100% him? I think the truth will come out one day but no, that first album is not 100% Michael and no one can talk to me about the authentic sound of my own brother's voice.

MJJC: This is kind of random, but did Michael ever express any interest in Islam or becoming a Muslim? There were many rumours swirling around in the months after his death that said he was a Muslim

Jermaine Jackson: Michael did not convert to Islam. He was curious about it and I gave him many books to read about Islam. I write in the book how, during his 2005 trial, he returned to the Kingdom Hall to pray. It's fair to say that he died a Jehovah Witness. 

MJJC: What is the worst prank Michael ever played on you?

Jermaine Jackson: Buckets or bottles of water balanced on the top of doors. Water, water, water. Every prank I ever remember involved a soaking! 

MJJC: What do you miss about Michael most?

Jermaine Jackson: That's simple: his smile. He had a smile like no one else. 

MJJC: If you could say just one more thing to Michael, what would it be?

Jermaine Jackson: It wouldn't be one thing, it would be many things. Many private things, but I would probably remind him how brilliant his London concerts were going to be because his self-doubt worried about that. That's the saddest thing for me: that his death confirmed the lie that he wasn't ready or fit enough to perform again, when the truth is that he was going to produce the most amazing show on earth and prove everyone wrong with the comeback of all comebacks. 

MJJC: Do you plan to release a solo album of new material and would you ever do a show/tour of your own hits/new material?

Jermaine Jackson: I always have plans and ideas and I'm always working on new material. I'm not finished yet!

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MJJC: Is there a reason why we are mostly only seeing Marlon, Jackie and Tito together? Do you think you will ever work with your brothers again?

Jermaine Jackson: You only saw Marlon, Jackie and Tito last year because I was busy writing my book, and then there was the trial. I hold dear the hope that you will see the brothers working as one again.

MJJC: What do YOU plan on doing for Michael and his legacy for years to come?

Jermaine Jackson: My book was the first thing I could do to honour his memory and fight for the truth in a way that he never got the chance to. Looking ahead, my goal will be to always preserve his legacy on the highest level in any appropriate way that I can.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Taj Jackson

As MJJC we hope that the readers can understand the importance of this Q&A. As Michael Jackson fans we had questions, we had concerns in issues related to the Jackson family and Taj Jackson agreed to take questions and answer them to best of his ability so that we can fix misunderstandings and overcome negativity and realize that despite our difference of opinions we are all on the same side - Michael Jackson. As MJJC it's our hope that we can all move towards a more positive and harmonious future. Enjoy !!!

MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Taj Jackson 


MJJC:  Many believe MJ wasn't close to his family for many years before he passed. Some have put the timeline as far back as Off the wall. Janet has confirmed this in her interviews prior to his passing, while Latoya & Jermaine book reinforced this notion. Can you tell us how close was MJ to his family in general? How often did you have contact with him & the children before June 25th? How often did you see MJ after he returned from Bahrain?

Taj Jackson: Well I think that answer depends on which family members you are talking about. I know that my uncle Michael had never stopped being close to us (me and my brothers). I also know that my uncle Michael was always extremely close to my Grandma.

Yes, I know some members of my family weren't as close to my uncle in the later years as before, but for us that never was the case. I talked to him and saw him very often.


MJJC: There have been some questionable ventures that included Michael’s children such as children being listed in the contracts as a condition, promoting products/ charities that are involved in legal fight with Estate, giving interviews to journalists (ie: Frauke Ludowig) that made disparaging remarks about MJ before. What do you think of your family putting Michael's three vulnerable children out into the spotlight every time something MJ's related happens? MJ went to extreme lengths to protect his children from the media, so why just a year after his death have his children begun to appear on TV in interviews all round the world, have pap photos of themselves appear constantly in the media, and have public twitter accounts which are picked up by gossip websites like TMZ. As his nephew do you think this is what MJ would have wanted for his young children? Do you ever think that maybe Michael wanted his children protected?

Taj Jackson: We are really trying to do our best with the situation in front of us, but we are only human. It's always easier to sit back and judge. But no one else is really in our shoes.

As for his kids, they are his legacy now. They are the ones that can and will carry on the MJ name and message. We don't force them to do that, they are proud to do it.


MJJC:  Are the adults aware of the ongoing cyber bullying Paris & Prince have been subjected to on Twitter? (Unsavory characters have tweeted them the autopsy picture, made crude jokes, curse and ridicule the children). Why are the children allowed to be on Twitter when so many hate on them? Are they being monitored when they go online? Are there concrete and serious steps being taken to protect the children against cyber bullies?

Taj Jackson: We take cyber bullying VERY seriously and appropriate steps have always been taken when warranted. However the last thing we want Prince, Paris, and Blanket to feel is that they are being imprisoned. No matter how much we want or try to protect them, there will always be people out there full of jealousy and hate.


MJJC: Do you feel, in your heart of hearts, that THIS GLE/JA-TAIL “MICHAEL FOREVER TRIBUTE”, was worthy of MJ? Do you really believe the lineup was the best for the greatest entertainer?  Were the fans concerns about the tribute ever taken seriously?

Taj Jackson: No tribute will ever truly be worthy of MJ. He is undoubtedly the greatest of all time. However that doesn't mean that there should never be any MJ tributes. Personally I think there should be MJ tributes all the time. My uncle should ALWAYS be celebrated.. not just for his music contribution, but for the incredible person he was.

I did this tribute for my uncle. And knowing my uncle… he would have much rather have seen his mother and kids there…and his own brothers, sister, and nephews 3T up on stage performing a tribute to him, then ANY other big named artist(s).


MJJC: We now learn GLE has filed for bankruptcy on October 8th, THE NIGHT OF THE TRIBUTE. What steps will you & your family take, to make sure GLE/JA-TAIL respects their commitments to the workers? Did the charities receive their promised donation?

Taj Jackson: I am not GLE, and don't have all the details on what exactly transpired, therefore I can not comment on this yet.  Sorry. I really hope there is more info in the near future.


MJJC: Since you were a consultant to the estate, you must not believe the will is fake. But do you know why some in your family would think the will is fake, but never went to court to legally challenge it? Have you ever discuss the issue with your family? What is their thinking, and how did they come up with the belief that the 2002 will wasn't signed by MJ? Has the Jackson family cooperatively decided to start working with the MJ Estate or are some still holding out and consider them an enemy?

Taj Jackson: I still am involved in the Estate. And regarding these questions , I can only speak on my behalf. Or things that I was personally part of.

I think the us (the family) vs them (the Estate) mentality is very dangerous and non productive. When you compete or consider someone the enemy, then there has to be a clear winner and a loser. Why would I want my uncle's Estate to fail? Communication is the key though and for the longest time there was definitely a lack of it on both sides. It also doesn't help the situation when you hear someone say go "Team this" or "Team that". For me it's all about my uncle legacy and not a game. The only team should be Team MJ.

Also the Jackson Family is a huge family and although we are a family unit, it is still made up of many individuals. Please remember, one person does not speak for the whole family or represent the whole family.

MJJC: Paris and Prince openly support other Artists music and Albums and even Jackson family endeavors on Twitter but no mention at all of their Dads new releases. They have even been tweeted questions from their followers but refuse to reply. Seeing how they are vocal of how proud they are of their dad's accomplishment, it raises a lot of questions. Have MJ's children been forbidden to support Estate ventures for their dad?

Taj Jackson: MJ's kids have never ever been forbidden to support Estate ventures. They have been to and supported many ventures that the Estate was directly behind. They are VERY proud of their dad's accomplishments.


MJJC: Do the oldest two know and understand the estate is theirs? Their dad's legacy? His gift to them?

Taj Jackson:I'm sure someone has told them all of this, but I would never have that conversation with them. I'm focused on their health and happiness. It is my job to make sure that they become something my uncle would be proud of.

My brothers and I have gladly put our music career on hold for over 2 years in order to make sure my Grandma and our 3 cousins were doing okay. That is our number one priority. And it's the least we can do considering everything our uncle did for us.


MJJC: Every new venture bring forth to capitalize on MJ's fame, arts, notoriety, not sanctioned by the MJ estate, is by definition, undermining MJ's wishes and taking money from his rightful heirs. Why are the children used in projects which are against the MJ estate's interest and so in effect against the children's long-term interest? Two examples - GLE tribute which appeared to ignore the Estate completely in their planning for the concert and tried to embarrass the executors and MJ himself by offering $100K to MJ's children who have been provided with untold wealth from their father, also public involvement of the children in the Heal the world foundation which is in a costly and lengthy lawsuit with MJ estate. Do you think it is fair or ethical to use these young children in that way? Do you understand how it is viewed from the outside that the children are being asked to endorse products that go directly against MJ's wishes in establishing an estate for them?

Taj Jackson:This is another family vs estate debate…. so I think I'll pass on this one :-)



MJJC: Do you understand the concern fans have over the people (such as: Dieter Weisner, Marc Schaffel, Melissa Johnson, Howard Mann aka Henry Vaccaro aka Vintage Pop) that had fall outs with MJ being in business with both your grandparents now? Anything you want to tell us about this?

Taj Jackson: That's a very interesting concern… but going by those rules, there would definitely have been no "This is It" movie or soundtrack, or "Michael" album, or "MJ" Julien auction either.


MJJC: Are people, outside or inside of the family, taking advantage of your grandmother? Many fans believe Katherine Jackson is used as a front because fans love her & respect MJ's deep affection for her. But many fans have woken up to the game being played, and the GLE revolt has shown that. Is it now clear to the family, that most fans will not blindly support a questionable venture, just because Katherine Jackson or MJ's kids are used as the selling point?

Taj Jackson: Is this a question or a statement? Not sure. But I will still try and answer it. :-)

People will believe what they want to believe. People will support what they want to support. People will think what they want to think. I always try and do my best to keep an open mind and see both sides of the story.


MJJC: Do you think Michael would be happy with the various book releases, merchandising deals and tributes that the Jackson family has endorsed in the last twelve months? What's your response to those who claim that the family have been cashing in on Michael's passing?

Taj Jackson: This question reminds me of when my brothers and I first started promoting 3T back in the day. All the French promo posters and billboards said "Nephews of Michael Jackson". The next time I saw my uncle I started to apologized to him about this. I started to tell him that we didn't tell Sony France to put that on all the advertising. He stopped me before I could finish and I'll never forget his response, . He said, "Applehead don't ever apologize, you are my nephews, flesh and blood and I love you. You are a Jackson. Be proud and wear that name like a badge of honor.  I'm counting on you guys to carry on this legacy when I'm done."

So…. my uncle Michael considered his legacy to be a piece of the Jackson legacy. For him, it had always been about the Jackson name living on. And I don't believe family can "cash in" on their own name.


MJJC: Even before your uncle was officially declared dead on 25th June, your family through its spokesman, Oxman, and various family members since, has made the serious allegation to the media that Michael Jackson's problem with overmedication was so bad that you as a family were attempting interventions.  Can you clear up this confusion with fans as it severely impacts on MJ's reputation, especially as a father?

Taj Jackson: If someone goes out and speaks on your behalf without your agreement or knowledge, does that make him your spokesman? Brian Oxman is not the family spokesman and he definitely does not speak for the entire family or me.


MJJC: About Cascio Tracks: How can you be so sure that the voice in the tracks is not real? Do you have any evidence to support that besides your own ears? Did you guys seek out experts to analyze the tape and having forensic evidence? If you believe the tracks were fake, why did you not take legal action? Did you talked to Eddie Cascio or any member of the Cascio family about the tracks before or after the album fiasco? Do you tried to reach out each other and hear both side of opinion and tried to sort thing out? Why did you feel you had to involve the public by bringing the fight on twitter? Do you take some responsibility for the major division this has created within the fan community? Do you reckon, some will FOREVER question the veracity of every new project? 

Taj Jackson: That's a very sore subject, the Cascio Tracks. But just know, A LOT went on behind the scenes before things went public and plenty of time before the "Michael" track list was even finalized. I really shouldn't say anymore otherwise I might say things I'll later regret. :-)


MJJC: You have tweeted that Michael's fans don't understand and that we only know part of the story. We can understand how that must be frustrating, equally from Michael's fan base perspective it is also frustrating when we reach out to the family and don't get any feedback. The fans look to the family for support and answers to various questions, but it appears there is not if much if any response from the family. What can the family and the fans do to correct the breakdown in communication'? Would the family be willing to establish an official line of communication and if so, what method of communication would the family be comfortable with? It would be great to see a dialogue between the fans and family.

Taj Jackson: That's a tough situation. I'm not sure anyone in our family wants to be the messenger or liaison anymore. People always want to blame or kill the messenger when something goes wrong…lol 

Every problem, concern or incident would lie squarely on that person's shoulders. No thanks. As much as I would love to help with that now. I've been there… done that. That's not for me… I would rather put that energy into my uncle's mother and kids.


MJJC: Did MJ ever record his own solo version of Why? If he did, what can you tell us about Michael’s original demo for WHY? Do you think it could see a release?

Taj Jackson: No, unfortunately it doesn't exist. There was only my uncle's backgrounds on the demo. There is a Babyface version of Why with MJ backgrounds though.


MJJC:We all know MJ was an amazing person, what do you love most about him?

Taj Jackson: His heart. Period. "Amazing person" is totally an understatement. His care for children and the world was not a gimmick, it was who he really was. If I could be a tenth of the man my uncle was, I would be happy with my life.


MJJC: What's your favorite memory of MJ?

Taj Jackson: One favorite memory is the time my brothers and I spent with him in Nagasaki, Japan. There is a Dutch Village Theme Park called Huis Ten Bosch. We had such an incredible time there and laughed so much during that trip. I am blessed and lucky to have so many great and happy memories with him. Enough memories to last a lifetime. :-)


MJJC: How was it like to work with MJ? Was MJ still being like an uncle when working or he was just pure professional?

Taj Jackson: He was absolutely a creative genius. Every time I worked on something with him, it never ever felt like work.

For example, the music video shoot for "Why". My first worry was that my uncle was playing around just a little too much…. cause he kept trying to make us laugh every time the camera was rolling. But afterwards I understood exactly what he was doing.

I was way too serious for the video, thinking in my head…this is a music video with Michael Jackson…

But that was never the relationship we had with our uncle. Our relationship with him was filled with love, fun, respect and mutual admiration. And the video at the end of the day captured that perfectly.


MJJC: What is the single most important advice MJ had given you or your brothers, and you would like to share with his own kids?

Taj Jackson: We have shared almost everything my uncle has ever said or taught us with his own kids.

The single most important advice he has ever given me is to truly believe in my dreams. Also to be appreciative of and grateful for what I have and always give back to the world…to those less fortunate… and stand up for those without a voice.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Dr. Steve Shafer Part 3

This is Part 3 of 3 of Dr. Steve Shafer's answers to MJJCommunity questions. In this third and final installment Dr. Shafer will be answering questions about Propofol, Lorazepam, Flumanezil, Insomnia and related matters.

Questions about propofol in general

MJJC: Do you feel that your testimony helped alleviate patient concerns about Propofol or are things more or less the same?

Dr. Steve Shafer: It may have helped, but only a little. On the Friday that Paul White testified I was working at the “Allen Pavilion,” a regional hospital run by Columbia University that serves a low-income area of Manhattan and the Bronx. I was caring for an elderly man who asked what drug he would get. I told him “propofol.” As usually happens, he asked if that was the drug that killed Michael Jackson. I told him that propofol didn’t kill Michael Jackson, Conrad Murray killed Michael Jackson. I also said that propofol was very safe drug. He said “I heard that doctor say that at on television, but I don’t believe him.” 

I told him I was the doctor he saw on television. He thought that was hilarious: the doctor in blue scrubs, wearing a surgical hat, with a stethoscope around his neck working in this clinic for poor patients might be the “famous” doctor he saw on television. “Yea, right” was his answer. He didn’t believe me for a second. However, he was reassured by my “joke” about being the doctor he saw on television, and everything went well. 


MJJC: Can a person become dependent or addicted to propofol? If yes what kind of dependency is it physical or psychological?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There is not much data about this, because propofol must be given intravenously, and it really burns, which discourages abuse. However, there have been a number of deaths of anesthesiologists and other health care personal from propofol abuse. Based on this, I am reasonably confident that it is addictive. 


MJJC: Why would someone even have the idea to use Propofol as a sleep aid? If it is only to be used for surgery then why would anyone suggest giving it someone to get some sleep?

Dr. Steve Shafer: The mechanism of action of propofol is the same as drugs like Ambien that are commonly used to induce sleep. This is a reasonable research question. However, it should never be put into practiced until it has been studied in a proper research setting. After that work has been done, it should only be used with appropriate documentation and precautions.



MJJC: Are the drug companies who make Propofol looking into testing Propofol for sleep? Do you think there will be more research studies about Propofol being used for sleep?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes to both questions. 


MJJC: What are the known effects on the nervous system & the brain of long term Propofol use?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Not a lot, because it is rarely used for long term use. I have been able to find one report of a patient who received propofol in the intensive care unit for 51 days. This is from the conclusion of the article: “To our knowledge, this report represents the first documentation of propofol use for long-term sedation in a mechanically ventilated pregnant patient and the longest duration of continuous infusion propofol published in the medical literature. Propofol was used for 51 days with no documented maternal adverse events.” (Tajchman SK, Bruno JJ. Prolonged propofol use in a critically ill pregnant patient. Ann Pharmacother. 2010;44:2018-22)

This patient was weaned from propofol over several days without adverse consequences. So administration for 2 months appears to not have long term consequences, at least based on this example, and the fact that Michael Jackson continued to function at rehearsal. However, those are just two data points. More research needs to be done if one contemplates development of propofol for long term use. 


MJJC: Does one get a "restful sleep" from Propofol? We have heard experts contradict each other on this.

Dr. Steve Shafer: The contradiction reflects the state of the science. I received propofol for anesthesia about a year ago, and I have given propofol to thousands of patients. There is often a feeling of having slept well after awakening from propofol.

However, studies suggest that propofol sleep it is quite different from normal sleep, and is not “restorative” the way that normal sleep is restorative. For example, dreams are important in brain function. Patients don’t dream on propofol, except at the time of awakening. My interpretation of the data is that propofol might be OK for getting a patient off to sleep, but that maintaining a patient on propofol for sleep (as we sometimes do in intensive care units) probably is denying patients restorative sleep.


MJJC: Do you agree that Propofol should be re-classified as a controlled substance?

Dr. Steve Shafer: No. I think this will hurt patients. In emergencies we need propofol immediately, and in large quantities. I am opposed to placing obstacles in the way of doctors caring for patients, unless there is clear benefit. Conrad Murray could have still obtained propofol for Michael Jackson, because doctors can order controlled substances. Since most propofol abuse is by doctors, making it controlled won’t limit the ability of doctors to abuse it. It will just impair their ability to care for emergency patients. 

This has been the subject of an issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. Here is the cover of that issue:http://www.aaeditor.org/HWP/Covers/0710.cover.jpg


MJJC: Do you think now the anesthesiology community will be more careful in how they promote and teach one to use Propofol?

Dr. Steve Shafer: We already take this very seriously. We are very involved in teaching the safe use of sedatives to our medical colleagues. This will continue. Perhaps they will be more receptive to the importance of safe sedation. However, nothing we can do will reach a doctor who does not put patients first.


MJJC: Do you think the medical community has learned from Michael’s death in regards over prescribing to a powerful wealthy person and wrong doing by a doctor?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Absolutely. I mentioned this above. I am aware of this because I occasionally see this in my practice. Doctors serve patients by acting as doctors. That is a message for doctors and patients alike.


MJJC: Can you explain “Propofol lollipop” a little more?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Propofol absorbed from the stomach never reaches the brain, because it is all removed by the liver. However, the blood supply to the mouth and esophagus (above the diaphragm) does not return directly to the liver. Instead, it just goes to the heart, and from there goes everywhere including the brain. So a propofol lollipop would provide propofol to the venous blood, and from there to the brain. Paul White and I discussed this at one of the breaks prior to his testimony. It is a reasonable idea, provided the dose was adequately controlled.

Should this ever become available, then I would reconsider my position on classifying propofol as a controlled substance. My current view is highly influenced by the fact that it only works when given intravenously, and that really burns!


MJJC: What does Propofol taste like?

Dr. Steve Shafer: It has the consistency of skim milk, and tastes like a very medicinal salad dressing. 


MJJC: Beagle Propofol experiment done by the Defense has made PETA and MJ fans angry. We don’t expect that you have any direct information about the Beagle experiment but as the humans weren’t affected by drinking Propofol, is it safe to assume that the Beagles were unharmed as well?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I think it is very unlikely that any harm came to the beagles. There should be no effect from drinking propofol. However, I am uncomfortable that neither the experimental protocol nor the results of the experiment were presented in court. I believe that when animals or humans participate in trials, there is an ethical obligation to write up and publish the research to add to the body of knowledge. It is the increased knowledge that morally justifies the research. I wrote our human study up for publication, asked Paul White to review it, and gave it to the defense. I believe they should have done the same with their beagle study.


MJJC: We heard the theory of some of the Benzos or/and Propofol that were given to MJ by Murray can be used for people with drug addiction to help them off their addiction to other drugs such as Demerol, Is this true? Can you comment on this?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There is a technique of rapid detoxification that involves placing patients under general anesthesia for a long period of time (hours to days) and pharmacologically reversing opioids with “opioid antagonists”, drugs that chemically block the effects of Demerol and similar drugs. This is controversial, but it probably works in some patients. 


Questions about Demerol

MJJC: Was the amount of Demerol Dr. Klein give to Michael normal or was it too large a dose?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I can’t answer without knowing why Demerol was given. Dr. Klein did not testify at the trial. I’m uncomfortable offering any opinion without more information. 


MJJC: Does your answer change if you consider MJ’s history (burn victim) with the drug? Do you think it was excessive?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Again, I apologize, but I don’t want to render an opinion without knowing why Dr. Klein was administering Demerol. This probably reflects my caution as an Editor-in-Chief of a medical journal. Medical editors are reluctant to render a public opinion unless they are confident they understand the facts. 


MJJC: In your opinion, does Demerol aggravate insomnia as a side effect? Did it play any part in Michael's physical and mental health? What was the best treatment for Michael's insomnia?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There are three questions here. I’ll answer them in order:

Demerol’s chemical name in the United States is “meperidine.” In many countries it is known as “pethidine.” Meperidine has a metabolite, “normeperidine”, that is a nervous system stimulant. As a nervous stimulant, I would expect it to exacerbate insomnia.

The coroner examined both blood and urine for meperidine (Demerol) and normeperidine. Neither could be detected. Thus, meperidine did not play a direct role in Michael Jackson’s death on June 25th. However, you asked a more general question about “play any part in Michael’s physical and mental health.” It is a good question, and I will again need to apologize for not answering it. I have not read Dr. Klein’s medical records or heard a detailed explanation of Michael Jackson’s care. I am uncomfortable speculating without that information. 

Sleep disorders are complex, and treating them is a specialized branch of medicine. It is my understanding that any drug that affects the level of consciousness can exacerbate sleep disorders. There is a nice description of sleep disorders, and the treatment of common sleep disorders, at http://www.sleepfoundation.org/artic...s-and-insomnia.


Questions about lorazepam, flumazenil, and ephedrine

MJJC: Could the free lorazepam detected in the gastric liquid be explained by the stomach hemorrhage caused by CPR or even by accidental mixing of adjacent blood at the time of autopsy (as it was suggested by the Coroner, Dr. Rogers in the preliminary, though not mentioned again during the trial)?


Dr. Steve Shafer: Maybe. However, free lorazepam would be expected simply because molecules like lorazepam would be expected to cross from the blood into the stomach, just like they cross into all tissues. That is how the lidocaine and propofol got into the stomach. Lorazepam should behave just the same way.

Additionally, the enzyme beta glucuronidase is secreted by the wall of the stomach into the stomach fluid. Beta glucuronidase is the enzyme that would turn lorazepam glucuronide back into lorazepam. So blood could account for it, but most of it is likely the simple diffusion of lorazepam from the blood into the stomach.


MJJC: Is there any other reason for Flumazenil to be administered apart from reversing the effects of benzodiazepines (in this case Lorazepam)?

Dr. Steve Shafer: No.


MJJC: Does it even make sense to give a person Flumazenil who according to Dr. Murray only received 4 mg of Lorazepam to begin with?

Dr. Steve Shafer: The most critical part of any resuscitation is to move air in and out of the patient’s lungs. The problem with giving flumazenil is that it distracted Conrad Murray from the critical task of moving air in and out of Michael Jackson’s lungs. If there were several people were involved in the resuscitation, then giving flumazenil would have made sense. However, since Conrad Murray was alone, any interruption longer than a few seconds was too long. 


MJJC: Can you explain your consideration of the Lorazepam levels, in more detail?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’ll answer as well as I can, but I’m not sure exactly what you want to know. The lorazepam levels were high enough that you or I would have been very sleepy from them. However, patents become tolerant to lorazepam and related drugs (the “benzodiazepines”). Since Michael Jackson had a fairly high concentration, and according to Conrad Murray that was not enough drug to induce sleep, he must have been tolerant. 

The defense wanted to attribute Michael Jackson’s death, in part, to oral lorazepam. The problem with this theory is that there was only a minute amount of lorazepam in Michael Jackson’s stomach. To explain this minute amount, the defense alleged that Michael Jackson swallowed lorazepam about 5 hours before the time of death. If that were true, then the lorazepam concentration would have peaked about the time Conrad Murray claims Michael Jackson was pleading for more drug to fall asleep. So that argument doesn’t make sense. 


MJJC: According to autopsy report there was ephedrine found in Michael's body. It's a drug that aggravates insomnia. How ephedrine goes with benzos and propofol, could it subdue effect of these drugs?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There was a bottle of capsules composed of ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin in the room. Ephedrine is sometimes used in resuscitation. Since there was ephedrine in Michael Jackson’s autopsy urine, as well as the urine that was found at the scene, I would assume that the ephedrine was from oral ingestion, and not from administration as part of the resuscitation.

Ephedrine can reduce the effects of propofol and benzodiazepines on blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic ephedrine might aggravate insomnia. 


Question about medical research in general

MJJC: Judge Pastor referred to Murray as making Michael Jackson part of a “scientific experiment”. This could unfortunately dissuade patients from feeling comfortable participating in clinical trials and other types of beneficial scientific and medical research. Can you discuss the important intersection between the research of scientists and the clinical practice of physicians?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’ve performed dozens of clinical trials. I don’t think this will adversely affect recruiting patients into clinical trials, because this “experiment” bears no resemblance to a scientific study. I think “experiment” is an accurate term, because it correctly implies that Conrad Murray had no idea what he would find day after day of propofol administration. So this was an experiment that he was conducting every day to see how Michael Jackson would respond. However, I don’t think anybody would confuse this experiment with a proper scientific experiment.

The larger question you ask is about the intersection between research and practice. This is an important question, and (fortunately) one that has been given very careful consideration. The answer goes back to the Nuremberg Code, which followed the trial of Nazi doctors guilty of atrocities at the end of World War II. You can find an excellent account on Wikipedia. This was updated by the Belmont Report, published in 1978. Again, there is an excellent account in Wikipedia. As explained in the Belmont Report, “research” differs from clinical practice in that research is a systemic investigation intended to create generalizable knowledge. “Systematic” means that the investigator intentionally gathers data to answer a question. Generalizable knowledge means that the investigator believes the information gathered is useful to others, and intends to “generalize” the knowledge, usually by publishing it. If you Google “Anesthesia & Analgesia policy in institutional review board approval and informed consent for research” you will find an editorial I wrote in March on the subject.



Questions about insomnia

MJJC: Decades of lies, slander, deceit, inhuman treatment from the media and public misconceptions had caused Michael immense hurt, pain and anguish resulting in insomnia. We know Propofol was not the answer, but what do you think he should have done (medically) to treat it?

Dr. Steve Shafer: He should have been in the care of a sleep medicine doctor. He had a terrible affliction, one that requires expert care.


MJJC: Do you think meditation that Murray was talking about in his police interview could really help Michael to sleep?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Maybe. Conrad Murray mentioned both propofol and lorazepam. These are both sedatives that act on the same receptor in the body, the “GABA” receptor. Most sleeping medications also act on GABA, the exceptions being antihistamines (e.g., benedryl) and melatonin. So I would expect these drugs to induce sleep. However, they should not be used to maintain sleep, because the drugs interfere with some of the brain function that is required for sleep to be “restorative”, meaning that it refreshes the brain.


Final comments

MJJC: Anything you want to say to the members of MJJCommunity and Michael Jackson fans in general.

Dr. Steve Shafer: Once your questions about Michael Jackson’s tragic death have been answered, I encourage you to set it aside. Conrad Murray has been convicted. We have a reasonable understanding of what happened. It’s time to return to the bonds that brought the MJJCommunity together in the first place: your celebration of Michael Jackson’s life, his message, and his music.

I appreciate the opportunity to address your questions, and hope that the answers are helpful to the MJJCommunity.

Sincerely,

Steve Shafer

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Dr. Steve Shafer Part 2

This is Part 2 of 3 of Dr. Steve Shafer's answers to MJJCommunity questions. In this second installment Dr. Shafer will be answering questions about Dr. Paul White, Conrad Murray and Michael Jackson's death. 

Questions about Dr. White

MJJC: While watching the trial it felt like there’s an animosity or fall out between you and Dr. White. Are we correct about this? If yes did this fall out stem from the events of the trial or is there a history to this?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Paul has been a friend for nearly three decades. The Paul White you saw on television was not the Paul White that I have known since medical school. He has made many contributions to our specialty. It is my hope that his contributions are his permanent legacy, not his defense of Conrad Murray.

Paul has been a cherished mentor since I was medical student. I was not his “student” as Chernoff stated, and I did not appreciate the implication that Paul taught me what I knew about propofol. However, Paul has given me counsel on everything from medical school to romance. I was expecting Chernoff to ask “Hasn’t Dr. White been a mentor to you?” I was ready to say “yes”. 


MJJC: What did you think of Dr. White’s testimony and his behavior? Did anything he said change your opinion about your colleague? Were you surprised by the things he said and things he did (such as his comments to the media) or didn’t do (such as not doing his own charts, not overseeing the Beagle experiment)?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There were factual errors in Paul’s testimony. Paul is capable of outstanding scholarship. I don’t know the dynamics of his relationship to the defense team that led to him not doing the heavy lifting that he usually does when it comes to checking the literature. I wish he had contacted me in advance. I would have been happy to help him review the literature and explain the science. 

The different approaches of science and law to discerning the truth failed Paul. If this had been an argument over a scientific manuscript, Paul and I would have spoken directly, without attorneys trying to discredit either one of us. We would have lined up papers, and arguments, and “duked it out” by e-mail, or perhaps over an extended lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. That would have worked and the science would be right (at least as “right” as we could get it). There would be no adverse consequences for either of us. As scientists collaborating to “get it right” we would have done well. The criminal justice system isn’t set up to allow scientists representing opposing sides to collaborate in an effort to find the truth.


MJJC: Are you still friends with Dr. White?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There may be some bruised feelings, but we will get past it. We have a lot of shared history.


MJJC: You worked with Dr. White and you are/were friend with him. So how it's possible to have 2 completely different opinions about what happened the night of 25 June 2009 from two close people?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Paul White admitted in court that he only considered self-injection scenarios. This severely limited the scenarios he considered.


MJJC: What do you think of your colleague Dr. White going out of his way to justify Conrad Murray's actions, from a medical point of view?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I don’t understand it at all.



Questions about Dr. Murray

MJJC: Did you purposely NOT refer to Conrad Murray as a doctor during your testimony? Have you heard the news reports about how furious it made him?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I was not aware of that. It would be very unlike me to refer to him as “Mr. Murray,” as my habit is to be respectful. I probably referred to him simply as “Conrad Murray”. If I never said “Dr. Conrad Murray”, then this is indeed a Freudian slip. I don’t see him as a doctor.


MJJC: Viewers at home could see Murray losing his temper when you started the IV demonstration, was that temper flare up noticeable to you from where you were positioned in the courtroom?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I read about it, but I didn’t personally observe it. I was focused on the jury.


MJJC: If so, were you fearful of what Murray may do (i.e. did you think there was a possibility that he would physically attack you)?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Not at all. 


MJJC: What are your thoughts on Murray as a doctor?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I believe he violated the fundamental trust between doctors and patients, and that he did so not in an isolated incident under duress, but intentionally and repeatedly. That is not something a doctor would do.


MJJC: Did you hear about and/or watch the Conrad Murray documentary.

Dr. Steve Shafer: No, I just heard about it.


MJJC: If so what are your thoughts about it. Do you feel that his participation in this documentary further proves Murray's lack of professional ethics and an unsuitable candidate for the medical profession?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I can’t imagine why he would participate in a documentary that would be shown prior to sentencing. Evidently they filmed the attorneys swearing at each other, with Paul White and Conrad Murray on a couch in Flanagan’s home. It seems reckless for everyone involved.



Questions about the role of propofol in Michael Jackson’s death

MJJC: Based on everything you know, what do you think happened on June 25, 2009?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Michael Jackson died from respiratory arrest (his breathing stopped) while receiving propofol, exactly as the coroner reported. There was a contribution of the lorazepam, also as reported by the coroner. The coroner got it right. 


MJJC: How convinced are you that MJ was on a drip that night?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’m completely convinced. Murray admitted to using a drip every night. He said he was trying to wean Michael Jackson. I don’t believe him. The urine propofol levels suggest massive doses, more than 2000 mg, as I explained in my rebuttal testimony. The blood levels show anesthetic concentrations of propofol. It all fits with an infusion (drip). 


MJJC: If we disregard Murray's police interview, in your professional opinion, how long was MJ gone before Murray finally found him? Some experts are under the impression that the delay in calling 911 can only be explained by him knowing MJ was already dead.

Dr. Steve Shafer: I think he was already dead, but that is really speculative. I don’t believe anything Conrad Murray says, and there are no records. My guess that he was dead is based on the limited window between stopping breathing and death (10-20 minutes). Murray would have to observe him in that window to have a chance to revive him.


MJJC: There are some rumors that Michael actually ate a meal the night he died in Murray's so-called "care". Do you think Michael was fasting for the required time? Or was this yet one more deviation from the standard of care by Murray? What are your thoughts on this?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’m not aware of any data suggesting Michael Jackson ever fasted. It doesn’t come up anywhere in the record. My guess is that he ate, because he would likely be hungry after a vigorous rehearsal.


MJJC: What do you think about June 19th (Kenny Ortega's email describing Michael- chills, seeming lost), and June 21st (hot and cold symptoms described by Cherylin Lee). What could those symptoms come from?

Dr. Steve Shafer: It is hard to know. The defense proposed that those might be withdrawal from Demerol, and that is correct. It might also be withdrawal from lorazepam. Propofol withdrawal hasn’t been described, because nobody other than Michael Jackson has ever received propofol night after night for insomnia. However, at least in theory it could be propofol withdrawal. 

However, it could also be the usual sort of illness: the “stomach flu” or a bad cold. There is no way of knowing.


MJJC: Do you have an opinion about June 23rd and 24th, when Michael seemed to be feeling great? What could this improvement come from?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I don’t know. After the trial I watched “This is It.” There was obvious excitement and exuberance as rehearsals were nearing the end, and the tour was approaching. It could simply be excitement and exuberance in expectation of the tour.


MJJC: Does it surprise you MJ didn't die sooner than June 25th after finding out Murray was given MJ Propofol without proper equipment for 2 months (according to Murray) prior to MJs death?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes. I think that is quite surprising. We don’t know if there were prior close calls, because there are no records.



MJJC: May 2009 audio recording of Michael in which he was slurring his words attracted a lot of attention. In an interview Dr. Murray said Michael was under the influence of Propofol during that recording. However some people say Propofol does not cause slurred speech. What do you think about that recording? Any idea what drugs can cause that speech?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Sedatives cause slurred speech. This could have been caused by midazolam, lorazepam, or propofol. 


MJJC: Do you think there was a chance for Michael to be in good health and to continue normal usual life after such long respiratory arrest even if paramedics could reanimate him?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Definitely, if they arrived in time. 


MJJC: This is a hard question but we have to ask. When there is overdose of Propofol and it causes death, like it happened to Michael, does the person suffer? Do they feel pain? Or is it like dying in your sleep that you feel nothing?

Dr. Steve Shafer: It is an easy question to answer: there is no suffering with a propofol overdose. The person falls asleep quickly and comfortably. The brain is deeply depressed, and the brain never returns to consciousness. 


MJJC: If Michael had been your patient and asked you for Propofol to help him sleep, how would you have responded? What would you suggest to him? Would you have recommended he see a sleep specialist?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Absolutely the right question to ask! I would have referred him to a sleep specialist. He had a very serious sleep disorder that was threatening his tour, his ability to perform, his ability to create music, and potentially his life. It needed urgent care from someone who knows what he or she is doing. 



MJJC: Do you know what the long-term effects of using Propofol would be? Murray has indicated that MJ was using Propofol for 6 weeks, apparently for sleeping 8 hours or so a night. Have you ever read about case studies of patients doing this or, as it was put forward in the trial, was MJ an experiment?

Dr. Steve Shafer: This was an experiment. I don’t think any other patient in the world has ever received this. There may be long term effects – that is a question that can’t be answered without clinical research. I don’t know what effects to expect, but it seems likely that tolerance and dependence would develop.


MJJC: How about even longer terms such as months or even years taking of deep sedation of Propofol, could it affect human health and any organs? Is it possible to take Propofol for a long time and don’t have any associated negative side effect?

Dr. Steve Shafer: We don’t know – the studies have not been done. 


MJJC: There might not be enough information to have a clear picture of what was going on, but we would like to know your opinion about what Murray was prescribing to Michael (from late 2006), the amounts of midazolam, lorazepam and flumazenil Murray was buying, and the possible consequences of such a treatment.

Dr. Steve Shafer: I am not sure what amounts you are referring to. I am aware of the drugs that Murray purchased in 2009, but I did not review his previous treatment of Michael Jackson, because it didn’t relate directly to the questions I was trying to answer at the trial. 


MJJC: According to his police interview, it seems that Murray knew he shouldn't mix Lorazepam and Propofol, so we are confused about their use together. Why would Dr. Murray or anyone mix those together?

Dr. Steve Shafer: There is nothing wrong with giving lorazepam and propofol at more or less the same time. Anesthesiologists routinely give midazolam at the start of an anesthetic, and propofol a few minutes later. Midazolam and lorazepam are closely related. You just have to know that the effects are “synergistic”, meaning that you need to reduce the dose of propofol when you give a lot of midazolam or lorazepam.


MJJC: Do you have any idea about how much lorazepam had he been given and when?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes, he gave a lot. The lorazepam levels in the blood were high enough to contribute to the cause of death, as stated in the coroner’s report, and as emphasized by the defense. As accurately stated by the defense, the lorazepam concentration in his blood was enough to put most of us to sleep. There were 8.4 milligrams of lorazepam in his autopsy urine, and another 5.8 milligrams of lorazepam in the urine that was recovered at the scene, which presumably was from the same night. So Michael Jackson received a lot of lorazepam. However, because there are no records, and I don’t trust what Conrad Murray says, it is hard to be more precise.


MJJC: Dr Kamangar said that dependency would be faster if benzos were given IV. Now was this a "treatment" that would have made him highly dependent on benzodiazepines? If Michael had survived, would he have been able to recover from this?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes to both questions. Intravenous drug use typically results in faster dependence. Regardless of the degree of dependency, one can recover from it with appropriate treatment. The big problem for Michael Jackson would have been whether he would be willing to stay away from intravenous sedatives for the rest of his life. Without a change in life priorities it is often very hard to wean individuals who are dependent on drugs.


MJJC: After spending what must have been hours of going through Murray's police statement, then the evidence itself, did you feel shocked with the results you were coming up with - the amount of propofol that had to have been given by Murray to obtain the blood results found at autopsy, the botched attempt by Murray to create his own Tate Gallery of Modern Art drip, etc.?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Since Conrad Murray ordered staggering quantities of propofol to give to Michael Jackson, and Michael Jackson had an anesthetic concentration of propofol in his blood, I expected the simulations to confirm that he received anesthetic quantities of propofol. They did. 


MJJC: During your testimony you have stated that MJ first had a respiratory arrest and then a cardiac arrest. Dr.Steinberg also testified similarly based on Murray’s own words (that there was heart beat/ blood pressure when he found Michael). We have seen the defense argue that it might have been a cardiac arrest rather than respiratory arrest first. Even in the Murray documentary they showed a scene between defense lawyers that they planned to ask you if direct cardiac arrest was possible but later decided to not ask that question as they were afraid of your possible answer. Can you elaborate on this a little?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I cannot find any evidence that the scenario outlined by the defense, instant cardiac arrest in 90 seconds, has ever occurred. I have spent hours looking for such evidence, including searching the medical literature and communicating with company officials who tracked propofol adverse events. To the best of my knowledge this has never been reported. Not even once.

I also do not believe any anesthesiologist has ever seen this. There is no mechanism by which lorazepam and propofol would act together to cause instant death. If the Judge had permitted it, I believe the trial could have been extended for several years while every anesthesiologist in the United States took the witness stand to testify that this scenario was complete bunk.

Consider the absurdity of claiming that 25 milligrams injected over 4 minutes was so safe that almost no monitoring was required, while the same dose injected over 1 minute was so toxic as to cause magical instant death! It makes no sense.

Of all the misrepresentations by the defense, the assertion of magical instant death from a small dose of propofol is the most harmful to patients. It is false. Asserting instant cardiac death from a very small dose of propofol can only be expected to increase the anxiety of patients requiring sedation and anesthesia. 



MJJC: As far as we can understand from Defense line of questioning and Dr. White testimony defense theory of what happened on June 25, 2009 is as follows: Murray gave MJ Valium and then 2 doses of Lorazepam and 2 doses of Midazolam. As MJ was unable to sleep Murray gave him a bolus of 25mg Propofol. During the night/day (unclear when) MJ swallowed 8 pills of Lorazepam unknown to Dr. Murray. MJ was moving around the room even though he had an IV and a condom catheter on and with all these medications on board, he self injected an already filed and left on the night stand syringe that had 25mg of Propofol. What can you say about the Defense’s version of the events?

Dr. Steve Shafer: The primary point is that it doesn’t matter. Michael Jackson would be alive if Conrad Murray had not committed multiple egregious and unconscionable violations of the standard of care. He was administering a general anesthetic to Michael Jackson in his bedroom, with no training, monitoring, or backup. He abandoned his patient. When he returned, his patient was either dead or nearly so. It speaks for itself.

We know that Michael Jackson received a lot of lorazepam. Maybe he took pills. Maybe Conrad Murray gave him more intravenously than he admitted to. We do know is that there was not enough unmetabolized lorazepam in Michael Jackson’s stomach to suggest recent ingestion. We do know that there was evidence in the room of large doses of intravenous propofol administration. We do know that the amount of unchanged propofol in the urine suggests administration of well over 1000 mg (100 mls) of propofol. Thus, the defense scenario is not consistent with the physical or autopsy data for either lorazepam or propofol.


MJJC: Dr. Shafer, you said at the trial that probably at the time of death the drip was still on and that would explain why the propofol concentration on the femoral blood was so high. But Dr. White said that he would doubt the propofol could still be infused once the blood circulation has stopped. Could you expand on this, please?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I claimed that Michael Jackson died during the infusion, which is why the blood concentration was as high as it was. He didn’t have to die at the end of the infusion, and there is no reason to think that he did. He simply died during the infusion. The 100 ml propofol bottle was empty, I expect that he died before the bottle was empty, but that by the time Conrad Murray found him the bottle had run out as well.

I was surprised that the defense claimed that my simulations required that Michal Jackson die at the end of the infusion. There was no such requirement. I was disappointed that Paul White went along with this. 


MJJC: In case there was cardiac arrest initially and not subsequently after respiratory arrest as Murray told the police, that cardiac arrest could have been caused by a sudden high/fast dose from the drip since there was no infusion pump to regulate the rate of the drip?

Dr. Steve Shafer: No. The heart is quite a reliable organ. It can stop suddenly, but not from anything propofol does. What makes the heart stop abruptly is: 1) an arrhythmia, typically from an acute heart attack, 2) something that completely blocks circulation, such as injection of a large dose of air, or a blood clot from the legs that suddenly blocks flow into the lungs, 3) administration of a large dose of intravenous potassium, which interferes with the electrical activity of the heart. Propofol will stop breathing, and it will drop the blood pressure. Neither of those will cause the heart to abruptly stop. As far as I can tell, nobody has ever seen a patient’s heart suddenly stop from any dose of propofol.


MJJC: According to Walgren's words during closing arguments "we don't know whether Michael awoke, yelled for help and choke while Conrad Murray wasn't in his bedroom, and we'll never know" and to Alberto Alvarez testimony that Michael's eyes and mouth were wide open, I want to ask you: could Michael suffered before death and could he really yelled for help and choke while dying? And if no, why his eyes /mouth were open if he died sleeping?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Michael Jackson did not suffer. He died because he stopped breathing. He was unconscious at the time. If he had been conscious, he would have been breathing.

It doesn’t mean anything if a patient’s eyes or mouth are open or closed after death. I witnessed my own father’s death during the time I was testifying. I was at his bedside. He was in and out of consciousness for about two hours before his death. My last communication from him, an “OK” sign with his hand, was about an hour before his death. After he died, I noted that his eyes and mouth were both open. I closed them.

Note: Part 3 of 3 will be posted 24 hours later - on December 22, 2011.

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MJJC Exclusive Q&A with Dr. Steve Shafer Part 1

This is Part 1 of 3 of Dr. Steve Shafer's answers to MJJCommunity questions. In this first installment Dr. Shafer will be answering questions about Michael Jackson, himself (Dr. Shafer) and Conrad Murray trial in general.

 

Questions about Michael Jackson in general

MJJC: Have you ever listened to Michael Jackson’s music and if yes, what song is your favorite?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I grew up listening to Michael Jackson’s music, just like the rest of the world. Thriller was the only album that I knew well, and “Beat it” is my favorite track from it. The message and the music both appealed to me.

MJJC: What was your opinion about Michael Jackson before this trial?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I knew very little about his personal life, other than the occasional sensational headlines. I intentionally read nothing about his life before the trial, because I did not want to introduce bias into my testimony. I’ve read a lot since the trial.

MJJC:Did your opinion about Michael Jackson change during and after this trial? Positively or negatively, and what is your current opinion about Michael Jackson?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes. During the trial I saw him as a patient, just like many patients I’ve cared for. During the trial I had no mental image of Michael Jackson as an icon or famous entertainer. He was a patient who died receiving medical care. It was important to keep focused on him as a patient.

Having said that, I was conscious that his interactions with Conrad Murray were, in part, a tragic side effect of his wealth. I spent 20 years on the faculty at Stanford University, and more recently at Columbia University. Patients who are very wealthy often choose a big-name medical center. Most wealthy patients are very kind and decent people. However, I occasionally encounter a wealthy patient who believes that because he or she is rich, he or she can simply tell me how to give anesthesia. That is what they are used to: giving orders and having people say “yes.” I believe that Michael Jackson fell into this trap: believing that he could tell doctors what to do and expect them say “yes.” This doesn’t excuse his doctors for saying “yes.” However, wealth and fame can be a curse.

My opinion of Michael Jackson is that he was an immensely gifted musician, entertainer, and genuinely compassionate individual. However, he was thrust into (well deserved) stardom as a youngster, and spent his entire life under the glare of public scrutiny. That does not seem like a blessing to me. To me it seems like a tragedy. He never lived a normal life.

MJJC: During the trial, the defense and various media outlets repeatedly called Michael Jackson a "drug addict". Based on your knowledge and research in this case, would you say that Michael Jackson was a "drug addict" or not?

Dr. Steve Shafer: “Addiction” is a lay term, not a medical term. The correct medical term is substance dependency. You will find an accurate explanation of this in Wikipedia. You can also find a good description at http://www.csam-asam.org/pdf/misc/DS..._diagnosis.doc.

I think Michael Jackson likely had a dependency on sedatives at the time of his death, because he was receiving intravenous sedatives every night. That type of regular exposure is almost certain to cause dependency.

MJJC: Can Dr. Shafer render an opinion on the chronic condition of Michael’s lungs (respiratory bronchiolitis, multifocal chronic interstitial pneumonitis, chronic inflammation)? Some TV doctor (Dr. Drew) alleged that it could be due to continuous/long term Propofol use. However MJ is known to have Pleurisy at 1977 and reported to say “he had a blister on his lungs” in later years. Could it be caused by the Propofol or could it be related to his Lupus?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Propofol is commonly used for infusions in intensive care units. I am not aware of any primary effect of propofol on the lungs. However, because Michael Jackson’s trachea (windpipe) was not protected while he was receiving propofol, he could have regularly inhaled small amounts of saliva or regurgitated stomach contents while anesthetized from propofol. That can damage the lungs and produce chronic inflammation.
Questions about Dr. Shafer in general

MJJC: Since your father passed away during the trial, was it hard to do the testimony? (and please accept our most sincere condolences for your loss)

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’ve shared with some members of the MJJCommunity my personal story about my father’s passing. I’ll spare you the details, other than to say that for me, the trial brought me an unexpected gift: the chance to be with my father when he died. Had it not been for the trial, I would have been in New Jersey. As it was, I was at his bedside, offering love and morphine. (I can only hope that one of my kids decides to take up a career in anesthesia.)
During my testimony, I felt that my father was beside me. It gave me confidence, particularly during cross examination. I knew that since my Dad was with me, I’d be OK.

MJJC: During testimony we learned that you drank Propofol. Did you drink it before you conducted the scientific research? What prompted you to drink it yourself?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I knew that the defense would reject animal studies as not applying to humans, just as Paul White did when asked about animal studies of propofol in urine. There is no way that I could conduct a human study in the US in three months, so I thought the best evidence I could get was to simply drink propofol and report if it had any effects. I knew the pharmacology well enough to be absolutely certain it was inert.

About a week later my colleague Pablo Sepulveda in Chile told me he would be able to conduct a clinical trial in volunteers. That made my drinking propofol completely irrelevant.

However, please remember that propofol is unique in the complete “first pass” metabolism. One should not try this with other drugs. Indeed, many drugs on the anesthesia cart would be fatal if consumed like that. This should not be attempted as a party trick!

MJJC: Any comments on Mr. Chernoff referring to you as a "cop"?

Dr. Steve Shafer: No, that’s his job. It didn’t bother me at all.

MJJC: During your cross examination Defense asked "Are you aware that everything you said here was your merely your opinion?" In your answer you concluded that this was an interesting question- where does 'personal opinion' end and where does "Dr. Shafer" begin? So did you, Dr. Shafer, come to any conclusion in this conundrum? Do you consider it wise or even desirable to split your mind in the Dr. figure- and Steven Shafer? Is it even possible to do so? What would the result most likely be? Could there be considerable "strength" in a personal, honest opinion?
Dr. Steve Shafer: I thought about that question quite a bit afterwards. I was not expecting it, probably because I am not an experienced expert witness. This was only the second time I have testified in court.

Mr. Chernoff was playing to my scientific training. Scientists are reluctant to state that something is a certain fact. There is evidence, and conclusions, but science is always open to new evidence and new conclusions. His asking me “wasn’t your testimony entirely your opinion” was an invitation to say “yes”, based on my interpreting “your opinion” as referring to my scientific opinion. If I had answered “yes,” it would have opened the door for him to say in his closing statement “Dr. Shafer himself admitted that his views were just his opinions.” That would play to the common use of “opinion” as mere speculation unsupported by data.

There were two aspects to my testimony: standard of care, and propofol pharmacology. I need to discuss fact vs. opinion for these separately.

Many aspects of the “standard of care” have been codified by organizations. For example, the American Society of Anesthesiologists has practice guidelines that very clearly spell out the standard of care during administration of anesthesia. My testimony was based largely on those guidelines. One could argue that it was merely my “opinion” to represent the published guidelines of the American Society of Anesthesiologists as fact. However, it is a fact that they have published guidelines on the standard of care, and those published guidelines were the basis of my “opinion.”
There are aspects of the standard of care are not covered by published guidelines because they are self-evident. I believe doctors should not lie. I believe Conrad Murray’s misrepresentation of the drugs that he gave to Michael Jackson was an unconscionable violation of the standard of care. Is it my opinion? Yes. However, I think every person on the planet shares my opinion that a doctor should not lie. Similarly, it is my opinion that doctors must place the interest of their patients ahead of their personal interests. That is my “opinion.” However, again I think it is an opinion that is universally shared. Can that be dismissed as “mere opinion?”

Regarding the scientific part of the testimony, my “opinion” is that of an expert in the field. The simulations I presented were mathematically accurate representations of the pharmacokinetics. Baring a mathematical error on my part, the simulations show exactly the blood and effect site propofol concentrations predicted by specific pharmacokinetic models for specific doses. The “expert” aspect is to decide what doses should be simulated, and whether these are likely scenarios. I did a lot of simulations, and even shared with the defense my spreadsheets so that they could do simulations as well. I chose some over others based on data. That is an “expert opinion.” However, it is more scientifically precise to say “conclusion, based on the data” that to call it “opinion”, since the latter implies uninformed speculation.

MJJC: Did it amuse you like it did many when Dr. White was called "Dr. Shafer" several times in court by Prosecution, Defense and even the Judge?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes. I think everyone was amused.

MJJC: Have you met any of the Jackson Family before, in between or after the trial? If so did they ever asked you any medical questions?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I spoke with them briefly several times walking to or from the courtroom. They were very kind, and offered condolences on the death of my father. I shared that we both had suffered loss, and offered condolences in return. I appreciated their kindness.

MJJC: Did your life change after this trial? If yes, positively or negatively?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I learned a huge amount from the trial, including:

• A lot about the pharmacology of propofol and lorazepam (I did a LOT of reading to educate myself on the issues, and to respond to claims made by the defense).

• Something about how the criminal justice system works. I was impressed by what I saw. In particular, the office of the District Attorney was absolutely honest and transparent. This was not a “game.” It was an attempt to determine the truth.

• Different approaches to discerning truth. In science, “truth” is determined by experiment, observation, peer review, and the ever-questioning nature of science. In science, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. In criminal law, “truth” is determined by a jury that arrives knowing almost nothing, the exact opposite of peer reviewers. In criminal law, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defense can assert anything without evidence. I learned that both systems work.

I have received wonderful feedback from my professional colleagues. It won’t change me, but it has been rewarding.
I have had very kind letters from the Michael Jackson community. I did not expect these, but they have been appreciated.

MJJC: What do you think about Michael Jackson fans love and appreciation towards you? Do you know that many fans publicly express their love and gratitude to you, and use your pictures and quotes to express themselves? What do you think about that?

Dr. Steve Shafer: It didn’t expect it! However, I do understand that not knowing what happened to Michael Jackson has been a cause of considerable pain to his millions of fans. If my testimony was helpful, and perhaps brought a closure to his passing so they can again focus on his music and message, then I’m honored to have had the opportunity.

I have tried to answer many of the e-mails I have received. I am appreciative of the kind comments I have received from his fans all over the world.

MJJC: Now that the trial is over what’s next for Dr. Steve Shafer? Returning to practice? Teaching? Patient education and advocacy?

Dr. Steve Shafer: All of the above.

I did not watch the first two days of Paul White’s testimony, because I was back in the operating rooms at Columbia University giving anesthesia. I love clinical anesthesia. I love taking care of patients. We all need to define who we are. For me, it’s simple: I’m a doctor. I care for patients. If I ever stop caring for patients, I won’t know who I am. That’s what I do.

Having said that, my work as Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia requires about 60 hours per week. Even during the trial I would go home and read a dozen new submissions every night, assign editors and reviewers, and process another dozen decision letters. I will be doing that every day until my term as Editor-in-Chief ends in 2016.
I continue to teach. You will get a laugh at the most recent lecture I have given at Columbia: the role of clinical pharmacology (e.g., pharmacokinetics) in the trial of Conrad Murray.

Anesthesia & Analgesia is the largest medical journal in the field of anesthesiology. I use Anesthesia & Analgesia as a platform to advocate for patient education, patient care, and patient safety (http://www.anesthesia-analgesia.org). Only rarely does that involve my own writing. The Journal advances patient care through editorial policies anchored in doing what is best for patients.

I continue to pursue my own research, primarily modeling the behavior of drugs used in anesthesia. Much of this is now in collaboration with my wife, Pamela Flood, who is the chief of Obstetrical Anesthesia at the University of California in San Francisco.

I am actively involved in developing new drugs to improve the safety of anesthesia and pain management. In 2003 I co-founded a biotech company to develop better drugs for anesthesia and pain management. You can find it at http://www.pharmacofore.com. Our work is progressing well, and this also consumes some of my attention.
MJJC: How the medical community has responded/reacted towards you since your testimony?

Dr. Steve Shafer: The response has been uniformly positive. There has been considerable appreciation that I spoke for the values that physicians hold, as well as for clearly explaining the medical and scientific issues involved. I didn’t testify to garner any attention or recognition, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. However, the validation of my testimony from my medical colleagues has been affirming that I did the right thing.

MJJC: Did media approach you for interviews? If yes, why didn’t we see you on TV?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes, I was approached, but I don’t think the interviews were aired. I think the reason is that they didn’t like my answers. I was asked about what I thought Conrad Murray’s sentence should be. I answered honestly that I didn’t have the background to judge that. I said that our lawmakers determine the appropriate sentences for criminal behavior, and judges then impose sentences based on the dictates of the law. I said that this was really a question for Judge Pastor, who IS an expert. I don’t think they liked that answer. They probably hoped for something much more vengeful from me.

I was asked how I felt about my role in convicting Conrad Murray. I honestly replied that I don’t think I had much of a role. Conrad Murray gave Michael Jackson propofol in a bedroom, with no training, no monitoring, no backup, no accountability, abandoned him to talk on the phone, and then lied about his action. His guilt was obvious when the facts emerged in 2009, and it just as obvious after my testimony.

MJJC: One of the most shocking parts of Dr. White’s testimony was when he admitted that he had not fully reviewed the current scientific literature on Propofol. Under cross-examination he also admitted that had not completely read the journal articles that were used to create the Propofol simulations that he presented as the basis of his court testimony. As a scientist I found this to be extremely irresponsible professional behavior. Can you please discuss how you prepared for your testimony in this trial?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I spent dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of hours in preparation. I read well over 100 papers. I analyzed the data numerous ways, and even made my spreadsheets available to the defense. I did the “heavy lifting” that is expected of an expert. This isn’t unique to this case – it’s how I approach everything I do.

MJJC: Judge Pastor picked out Murray's recording of MJ as the piece of evidence that affected him the most during the trial. Was there any one thing that affected Dr Shafer in all the evidence that he looked at?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes, the consistency Conrad Murray’s behavior. In the sentencing hearing Judge Pastor outlined in detail Conrad Murray’s pattern of repeated lying, self-serving actions, and reckless disregard for the wellbeing of his patient. That was what I saw also.

MJJC: How did you decide to choose your profession? What did it start with?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Many physicians choose a medical career very early in life. I knew from the time I was 9 years old that I wanted to be a physician. The inspiration was my pediatrician. He seemed to know absolutely everything, and I was amazed at the breath of his knowledge. Additionally, every year he spent several months on the “Ship Hope” practicing medicine in third world countries. I profoundly admired his sense of service to others. That was my role model

MJJC: Did any of your parents relate to medical sphere?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I am the first physician in my family. My father was a management consultant, and my mother was a housewife. Both of them took pride in having a son who went to medical school. I became the family resource for all medical questions.

MJJC: Did your father know about your intention to take a stand in Conrad Murray's trial? If yes, what were his thoughts about it, if any?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes. He liked it a lot. He told me it made him proud. He was also aware that I was visiting him every day because I was in Los Angeles for the trial.

He watched my testimony on Thursday morning, and died that evening.

Questions about trial in general

MJJC: What do you think about DA Walgren?

Dr. Steve Shafer: He is brilliant, dedicated, and absolutely honest. He worked incredibly hard. I think he got about 4 hours of sleep every night of the trial.

Part of my job was educating Mr. Walgren in the science. By the time of the trial, he was occasionally correcting my calculations! He was so effective when dealing with expert opinion in part because he truly understood the scientific principles.

As a taxpayer, it is amazing that attorneys like Mr. Walgren work for the State of California at a public servant’s salary. We are really getting our money’s worth!

MJJC: Did you see Judge Pastor give his sentencing statement? Any comments on that?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Yes, I watched it live. I smiled when Judge Pastor used specific words and ideas that I introduced in my testimony. Also, having read all of the documents numerous times, it was clear to me that Conrad Murray repeatedly lied. However, that was irrelevant to my testimony, and so I appropriately kept that opinion to myself. I appreciated hearing the judge, who is better able to judge Murray’s veracity than I am, lay out the pattern of self-serving lies by Conrad Murray.

MJJC: Do you think Murray just made a 'fatal mistake' or do you think it’s something more?

Dr. Steve Shafer: The fatal mistake was saying “Yes” to Michael Jackson’s request for a physician to administer propofol. That was followed by innumerable other fatal mistakes, but it all traces back to the initial lack of judgment.

MJJC: Do you believe Murray got the appropriate charge of Manslaughter or do you believe what he did was much more serious that it should have been something like Murder 2?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I’m not qualified to judge this, and am very glad I was not asked for an opinion on this during my testimony. I am glad he was found guilty. That was important: doctors are accountable for their actions. We are not above the law.

I only gave one television interview after the trial, because I had to teach a course (www.nonmemcourse.com) immediately after the trial. I was asked what I thought about the fact that the worse possible sentence was 4 years in jail. I answered that I wasn’t qualified to render an opinion. I think they wanted a much more bloodthirsty response, because they never ran the interview.

MJJC: What kind of punishment would be appropriate in your personal opinion?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Emphasizing that this is just my uninformed personal opinion, I believe that he must lose his license, never practice medicine again, and be accountable to the Jackson family. Please let me emphasize again that criminal punishment isn’t something I know about.

MJJC: In his closing argument Ed Chernoff stated once more that "lack of record keeping did not kill Michael Jackson". Would you find this a particularly irresponsible assumption- especially in light of your lengthy and detailed explanation of Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics? Would Ed Chernoff's closing argument be especially irresponsible and outrageous- considering that the assumed physician did not keep any records?

Dr. Steve Shafer: Mr. Chernoff’s statement is false. The lack of record keeping did contribute to Michael Jackson’s death. Without records Conrad Murray could not look for trends, such as seeing if larger doses were needed each day. Without records Conrad Murray could not look at past doses to determine what was a safe dose, and what was a dangerous dose.

Record keeping re-enforces vigilance. When you write down the vital signs every 5 minutes, it forces you to keep an eye on the patient. Record keeping would have forced Conrad Murray to stay close to Michael Jackson and continuously write down vital signs (at a minimum he had the pulse oximeter on the finger and could physically count the rate of breathing and heart rate). Record keeping would have forced Conrad Murray to monitor the intravenous infusion rate. Record keeping might have kept Michael Jackson alive. Thus, Mr. Chernoff’s statement is false.

MJJC: Lots of hyperbole has been made of the IV tubing/matching/non matching. Could you explain in detail once more (with no defense attorney interrupting) why this has no bearing on the statements made by you?

Dr. Steve Shafer: I initially believed that the IV tubing that Conrad Murray purchased in large quantities from Sea Coast Medical was non-vented, because I did not see the vent in the picture taken by the medical examiner, no vent is described in the product description from Sea Coast Medical, and I was unsuccessful in my initial effort to purchase the tubing from Sea Coast Medical. It turns out that it was vented, which I only realized after I physically examined the tubing in court.

However, the fact that thesmaller infusion set was vented only increases the ease with which Conrad Murray set up the infusion, and the ease of concealing the tubing set on the day Michael Jackson died.

However, it still comes back to the big picture: Conrad Murray was giving Michael Jackson an anesthetic drug in his bedroom with inadequate training, inadequate monitoring, and no backup. That is why Michael Jackson died. None of these issues changes the big picture.

Note: Part 2 of 3 will be posted December 21st.

 

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