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Jackson fairly healthy, LA coroner’s report says

Heart was strong and weight in acceptable range

By Thomas Watkins
Associated Press / October 2, 2009

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LOS ANGELES - Michael Jackson’s arms were covered with punctures, his face and neck were scarred, and he had tattooed eyebrows and lips, but he was not the sickly skeleton of a man portrayed by tabloids, according to his autopsy report.

The Los Angeles County coroner’s report says that Jackson was a fairly healthy 50-year-old before he died of an overdose. His 136 pounds were in the acceptable range for a 5-foot-9 man. His heart was strong with no sign of plaque buildup. And his kidneys and most other major organs were normal.

Still, Jackson had health issues: arthritis in the lower spine and some fingers, and mild plaque buildup in his leg arteries. Most serious was his lungs, which the autopsy report said were chronically inflamed and had reduced capacity that might have left him short of breath.

However, according to the document, the lung condition was not serious enough to be a direct or contributing cause of death.

“His overall health was fine,’’ said Dr. Zeev Kain, chairman of the anesthesiology department at the University of California, Irvine, who reviewed a copy of the autopsy report for the AP. “The results are within normal limits.’’

Kain was not involved in the autopsy. The full autopsy report has not been released publicly.

Jackson died at his rented Los Angeles mansion June 25 after his personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, administered the anesthetic propofol and two other sedatives to get the chronic insomniac to sleep, court documents state. Propofol, normally a surgical anesthetic used in operating rooms, acts as a respiratory depressant and requires constant monitoring,

Murray told police he left the room to use the bathroom, and phone records show he also made calls for 47 minutes around the time Jackson encountered problems. When Murray realized Jackson was unresponsive, he began frantic efforts to revive him, but Jackson never regained consciousness and was declared dead at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center.

The coroner’s office announced last month that Jackson’s death was a homicide caused by “acute propofol intoxication,’’ with the other sedatives listed as a contributing factor. They said the standard of care for administering propofol was not met and the recommended equipment for patient monitoring, precision dosing, and resuscitation was missing.

Murray is the target of what Los Angeles police term a manslaughter investigation. The decision on criminal charges will come from the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Murray has been interviewed twice by police.

Except for a brief video posted on YouTube, Murray has not spoken publicly since Jackson’s death, and his lawyer, Edward Chernoff, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. In the video, Murray said: “I told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.’’ Chernoff previously has said nothing Murray gave Jackson “should have’’ killed him.

Jackson was declared dead a little more than two hours after paramedics were called. Evidence of the desperate struggle to save the star was evident on his body. He had chest bruising and cracked ribs from CPR, and a mechanical device known as a balloon pump was inserted into his heart to try to restart it, according to the autopsy report.

Jackson’s body was taken by helicopter to the coroner’s office where the following morning Chief Medical Examiner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran and Dr. Christopher Rogers carried out an extensive review and ordered a toxicology screening to look for drugs in his system.

Aside from propofol and the sedatives, the only substances found in his system were the local anesthetic, Lidocaine, sometimes used to numb injection sites and ephedrine, a commonly used resuscitation stimulant.

No other drugs - legal or otherwise - were detected, nor was any alcohol.

Kain said he was surprised that three other sedatives, known as benzodiazepines, were present with propofol. Anesthesiologists sometimes mix one “benzo’’ with propofol to help put a patient under, but using three increases the danger for the patient.

“People don’t mix the benzodiazepines together because they interact with each other and increase the risk of respiratory arrest,’’ Kain said, adding it was likely Jackson first stopped breathing and then suffered cardiac arrest.