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Doctors competed to give Michael Jackson painkillers, ex-wife Rowe says

CNN News Wire | 8/14/2013, 12:37 p.m.
Michael Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe arrives at court in Los Angeles, California on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. Rowe will be questioned about the singer's drug use by lawyers for the concert promoter being sued in his death.

Doctors “would try to outbid” each other on who could give Michael Jackson “the better drug” for his pain, his former wife testified Wednesday.

Debbie Rowe, who is the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children, is being forced to testify about the singer’s drug use by lawyers for AEG Live, the concert promoter being sued by members of Jackson’s family, who say the promoter is responsible for his death.

Jackson family matriarch Katherine Jackson sat Wednesday morning in the front row of the small courtroom, where she has spent much of the past 16 weeks watching the trial.

“Michael had a very low pain tolerance and his fear of pain was incredible,” Rowe testified. “And I think that doctors took advantage of him that way.”

Rowe has rarely given interviews since her divorce from the pop icon, although she did testify in her former husband’s defense during his child molestation trial in 2005. Jackson was acquitted on all charges in that case.

AEG Live contends that Jackson used the surgical anesthetic propofol for years to treat his insomnia, including when Rowe was traveling with him in Europe in the 1990s.

The coroner ruled Jackson died on June 25, 2009, from a propofol overdose administered by Dr. Conrad Murray, who is serving a prison sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

“Ms. Rowe will tell you that she saw Mr. Jackson using propofol on tours,” AEG Live lawyer Marvin Putnam told jurors in his opening statement 16 weeks ago. “She saw several doctors put Mr. Jackson to sleep in hotel rooms while on tour.”

Rowe, who met Jackson when she worked as a nurse in the Beverly Hills office of Dr. Arnold Klein, witnessed doctors put Jackson to sleep in Munich, London and Paris hotels, according to Putnam.

“She would always insist on being there” to make sure it was an anesthesiologist who did the “incredibly dangerous” procedure, he told jurors.

AEG Live executives, who were promoting and producing Jackson’s comeback concerts, had no way of knowing that Murray was infusing him with propofol each night for two months in the spring of 2009, Putnam said.

“Almost no one knew until after his death,” he said. “AEG Live certainly didn’t know about it.”

The Jackson family’s lawyers contend that the promoters ignored warning signs that Jackson’s health was deteriorating during the two months before his death. Instead of getting him to another doctor who might have saved his life, they gave Murray the responsibility to get Jackson to rehearsals, they argue.

Michael Jackson’s mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in his death because it negligently hired, retained or supervised Murray. The company’s agreement to pay Murray $150,000 a month put the doctor in a conflict of interest because he was in deep debt and could not risk losing the job by refusing Jackson’s demands for propofol, their lawyers contend.

AEG Live argues that while its executives negotiated with Murray to serve as Jackson’s physician for the “This Is It” tour, it was Jackson who chose and controlled the doctor.

Wednesday is the 69th day of testimony in the trial, which the judge told jurors would likely be given to them for deliberations in late September.

Alan Duke | CNN