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Extreme Medical Malpractice May Be Considered Criminal

Prosecutors rested their case against Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, on October 24, 2011. Murray has pled not guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter for administering a fatal overdose of propofol, but prosecutors have argued that Murray demonstrated negligence so extreme he should be in prison..

According to Reuters, the final prosecution witness told the jury Murray never should have given the King of Pop the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid at home and called Murray's treatment a "pharmacological 'Never-Never Land.'"  Defense attorneys argued the singer gave himself an extra, fatal dose of the drug when Murray was not present.

One of the trial's dramatic moments included the playing of an audiotape of the singer speaking with Murray in a slurred voice about assisting children. Prosecutors also introduced evidence that Murray used a $275 fingertip device to read Jackson's blood oxygen levels and pulse when he administered drugs. Experts said the device was not sufficient for the singer's needs.

The number of criminal trials involving medical malpractice has increased dramatically snce 2001, according to Reuters. The news agency researched 37 cases against doctors and found that the majority of criminalized malpractice cases involved doctors' handling of prescription drugs. Many lawsuits were based on the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. To prove guilt under the act, the prosecution must show that a doctor intentionally and knowingly prescribed medication for other than a "legitimate medical purpose" or outside "the usual course of professional practice."


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