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Culture

Jackson's death raises drug use questions

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-26

The autopsy of Michael Jackson was underway on Friday, while media began speculating on the possible role of drugs in the pop icon's death. The final results of the autopsy are not expected for a couple of weeks.

AFP - Michael Jackson's autopsy was to get underway Friday as attention turned to the possible role of drugs in the King of Pop's death and tributes poured in from all corners of the globe.

Jackson collapsed suddenly at his rented mansion in Los Angeles on Thursday and was rushed to hospital by paramedics before being pronounced dead, news that reverberated around the world with near-seismic impact.

An autopsy was to be carried out on Friday by the Los Angeles county coroner but amid heartfelt tributes speculation mounted about the cause of death for the 50-year-old whose "Thriller" album was the biggest selling disc in history.

Los Angeles Coroner's spokesman Ed Winter meanwhile indicated that a final verdict into Jackson's death would probably not be issued until the results of toxicology tests were known, a period that could take several weeks.

"I can tell you the likelihood is slim that we will have any results released today because of the extent and level of the tests we are going to be performing," Winter told reporters.

Jackson lawyer Brian Oxman said he and family members voiced concerns over the star's use of drugs as he prepared for a gruelling series of comeback concerts in London designed to relaunch his career.

"I know Michael was rehearsing and working extremely hard to get in shape in order to perform in London," Oxman told ABC television's Good Morning America. "He was taking it seriously and I think he was in discomfort because he was working so very hard.

"The family tried many times, and I spoke to family members and I said to them 'If this situation arises where Michael perishes because of medications -- if we one day wake up and he's dead because of these medications I will not hold my tongue, I will speak out and I will speak out loud."

Celebrity website TMZ.com -- which broke the news of Jackson's death Thursday -- reported Friday that the star had been administered an injection of the powerful painkiller Demerol about an hour before he lost consciousness.

Family members told TMZ the dosage was "too much."

Jackson's former producer Tarak Ben Ammar denounced the doctors around the late pop icon as "criminals."

"It's clear that the criminals in this affair are the doctors who treated him throughout his career, who destroyed his face, who gave him medicine to ease his pain," he told France's Europe 1 radio.

"He was a hypochondriac and one never really knew if he was sick because he had become surrounded by charlatan doctors who were billing him thousands and thousands of dollars worth of drugs, vitamins...," said the Tunisian producer.

TMZ reported that police were searching for Jackson's physician. The Los Angeles Police Department would not immediately confirm the report.

News of Jackson's death launched a worldwide avalanche of tributes, as foreign leaders, celebrities and fans paid tribute to the icon whose success was overshadowed by a pedophilia court case and his eccentric private life.

Pop diva Madonna was among the celebrities who paid tribute. "I can't stop crying over the sad news," the singer said in a statement. "The world has lost one of the greats, but his music will live on forever!"

The star's first wife Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley, told MTV News: "I am so very sad and confused with every emotion possible. I am heartbroken for his children, who I know were everything to him, and for his family."

Fans staged spontaneous gatherings across the world. At Jackson's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, fans left flowers and lit candles.

While some fans sobbed uncontrollably, others marked Jackson's death with impromptu street parties to celebrate his life.

In Los Angeles, Lana Brown, a 49-year-old tourist from Dallas, broke down in tears as she digested the news. "I can't believe we might have lost the best entertainer this world has ever seen," she told AFP.

Jackson's concerts in London were to be his first shows in more than a decade.

While Jackson ruled the charts and dazzled audiences with electric dance moves like the backwards "moonwalk" in the 1980s, his once-stellar career was overshadowed by his startling physical transformation and multiple allegations of child abuse.

He lived as a virtual recluse following his 2005 acquittal on charges of child molestation and plotting to kidnap his young accuser.

Despite his acquittal, the trial was a body blow from which the pop music superstar, who named his ranch after Peter Pan's "Neverland" and furnished it with Disney-inspired rides, struggled to recover.

Born on August 29, 1958, Jackson made his show business debut with four of his elder brothers in the Jackson Five pop group, and went on to lead the stage clan with a piping soprano and dazzling dance moves.

In 1979, Quincy Jones produced Jackson's first solo album for Epic, "Off the Wall," a huge disco-oriented success that sold 10 million copies.

They teamed up again in 1982 for "Thriller," which became the top-selling album of all time, with sales exceeding 41 million.

"I'm absolutely devastated at this news," Jones said after being informed of Jackson's death. "I just don't have the words. Divinity brought our souls together and allowed us to do what we could do through the '80s."

 

Date created : 2009-06-26

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