American Morning

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June 30th, 2009
06:37 AM ET

Doctors and celebrities – Money over ethics?

Michael Jackson rehearses at the Staples Center on June 23, 2009.

Michael Jackson rehearses at the Staples Center on June 23, 2009.

Most of us will never feel the healing hand of a concierge doctor.

A what?

A CONCIERGE doctor. They’re the ones who devote all or most of their time to a single, very wealthy client. Think Michael Jackson.

On June 15, Dr. Conrad Murray wrote a letter to his patients saying he would “cease practice of medicine indefinitely” due to a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” The sound of opportunity knocking was no less than the "King of Pop," Michael Jackson.

Murray had turned to practicing concierge medicine.

It was Murray who as Jackson’s personal doctor was at his side during the moments when the pop star’s life started to slip away last week. And it is Murray who was questioned by police and who is the subject of much unproven speculation about the role of prescription drugs in the death.

Murray’s lawyer, Edward Chernoff, has vigorously denied that his client prescribed the painkillers Dermerol and Oxycontin to Jackson. He described all of that as “rumors”.

Medical ethicists, while not commenting specifically about Murray, take a very cautionary view towards any doctor who devotes all or most of his time to a single patient.

“It can be intoxicating,” says the University of Pennsylvania’s Art Caplan. “When you’re going to hire yourself out as a solo physician, you’re really tempted to say this is really going to be glamour and this is going to be big money. However the problem is it also means a very demanding patient.”

In other words, it’s hard to say no to that kind of patient.

Caplan: “It’s difficult to be a concierge doctor in the sense in which the temptations to try and please your patient are too great. And I think the temptation is not to listen to your peers and not to have someone looking over your shoulder, which I think is the essential check and balance of good medicine. It’s tempting to be out there on your own egotistically saying, I can handle everything. I think that leads to danger.”

Besides the seduction of being near a celebrity, there’s the challenge of not getting to close to the patient.

Referencing a common saying among doctors, NYU Langone School of Medicine Psychiatrist Vatsal Thakkar told CNN, “We should not treat friends, family, or ourselves...It goes back to setting up situations where we might deviate from the type of care that we provide. And you know, if there is a dual relationship, hypothetically in a situation, that could be a complicating factor.”


Filed under: Entertainment • Health
June 30th, 2009
05:19 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Tuesday June 30, 2009

Iraqi soldiers parade to mark the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities and towns across the nation on June 30, 2009, in the city of Karbala, 110 kms south of the capital Baghdad. Getty Images
Iraqi soldiers parade to mark the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities and towns across the nation on June 30, 2009, in the city of Karbala, 110 kms south of the capital Baghdad. Getty Images

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • New pictures and new details emerging about the final days and minutes of Michael Jackson’s life, as the fight for Jackson’s family and fortune begins.  Joe Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton held a rather bizarre news conference yesterday, in which Michael’s father said there will be no funeral until the family sees private autopsy results.  Investigators also returned to Jackson’s rented home, and left with medications.  We're live in Encino, California.
  • Also new information on the sudden death of TV’s most recognizable pitchman, Billy Mays. A medical examiner in Florida said Mays had an enlarged heart and probably had a heart attack in his sleep, so the hit on the head he suffered during a rough plane landing, probably did not kill him.
  • It's not over yet.  An official tells the Associated Press that at least ten more people may be charged with helping Bernie Madoff pull off the biggest rip-off in history.  A judge sentenced the 60 billion dollar con man to 150 years in prison yesterday.
  • Explosions over Iraq this morning, but ones in celebration.  There were fireworks as U.S. forces officially turned over control of cities and towns to Iraqi security forces.  The government has named June 30th "National Sovereignty Day,” but can Iraqi soldiers and police keep the country safe? We're live on the ground in Baghdad.

Filed under: What's On Tap
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