The trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, “the doctor charged in Michael Jackson’s death,” drags on. “Authorities contend Murray gave Jackson a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol in the singer’s bedroom on June 25, 2009. Defense attorneys claim the singer gave himself the fatal dose.” (WAPo)
Murray agreed to become Jackson’s personal physician for $150,000 a month but was never paid because the singer died before the contract was signed.
Jackson, whom I defended when ‘Mad Dog’ [Thomas] Sneddon picked up the star’s scent and gave chase, was a deeply disturbed, body dysmorphic, drug-addicted man. But he was an adult, not a child. His decisions were his to make. He hired Murray to feed narcotics directly into his bloodstream.
If not for the medicine of this admittedly shoddy practitioner, Jackson would have ended-up dead, in a back alley with a needle in his stick arm, a long time ago.
In the libertarian law, Dr. Conrad Murray is innocent (if odious).
A drug purchaser and a drug pusher have agreed on an exchange. If it is voluntary and consensual, then both parties expect to benefit ex ante. A voluntary exchange is, by definition, always mutually beneficial inasmuch as, at the time of the exchange, the buyer valued the purchase more than the money he paid for it, and the seller valued the money more than the goods he sold.
There will always be meddling third parties seeking to circumscribe and circumvent a voluntary activity not to their liking. Some feminists want to stop lovers of pornography from making or consuming it. Other busybodies would like to stop adults from gambling. These third parties have no place in a transaction between consenting adults, unless these transactions infringe directly—not foreseeably—on their property or person.
Any transaction that was at the time of occurrence voluntary, and hence beneficial to the participants, can, retrospectively, be denounced as harmful and regrettable.
The legislator has no place in a voluntary exchange between adults, as dodgy and as dangerous as they may be (like dwarf tossing). Murray might be an unsavory character. He would not be my choice for a medic, but he does not belong in jail.
UPDATED (Oct. 27): ON SELECTING FOR LOW CHARACTER. Some interesting comments have been made below, under Comments. First, not to be schoolmarmish, but addiction is not a disease. Please click “Drug War,” on my Articles Archive, and read some of these titles. The category of “Psychiatry and The Therapeutic State” is also relevant to grasping that the disease model of misbehavior has no place in a free society:
Charlie Sheen’s Out of the AA ‘Troll Hole’
VICES ARE NOT CRIMES
HARRY’S HOUNDERS AND OTHER VILLAGE IDIOTS
Addicted To The Drug War
Tokers Are Terrorists Now
Medical Mumbo Jumbo Does Not Explain Addiction
Addictions Are About Behavior, Not Disease
As to the good points raised in Comments. We live in the real world which is encumbered by positive law. Analysis must avoid, in as much as possible, levitating between what “is” and what “ought to be” (although all libertarian analysis, given its deference to natural law, will so err).
The type of “service” Jackson required from this Murray man was one that few competent, above-board practitioners would agree to perform. I’ve used a similar argument to make the case that our immigration law selects for low character: yes, left-libertarians like to believe that the best and bravest of humanity will cross our borders illegally. As an immigrant who knows a bit about the US visa system, I assure you that this is seldom the case. (Read more.)
It appears that poor Jackson did not have the fiduciary and intellectual wherewithal to sign a contract specifying Murray’s responsibilities. But even had Jackson done that prudent thing, Murray would have likely flouted his obligations, irrespective of the Hippocratic oath he took. See comment above. Risk is implicit in buying a dodgy service such as anesthetizing yourself to sleep every night. However much I paid my doctor, I know she would refuse. She’s a go-by-the-book woman.
What is true is that if all drug dealing were licit, Jackson would have had access to a better practitioner. However, private medical associations would have probably not licensed Murray and would refuse to give their medical imprimatur to individuals who were prepared to anesthetized a man to sleep each and every night (give him his “milk,” as the warped Jackson called this deadly, almost necrophilic practice).
Either way, your best and brightest medics would not be willing to cease practicing in their area of specialty, and contend themselves, as professionals, with the nightly routine of hooking up a celebrity’s IV.
Here’s another clue Jackson ought to have used in assessing the risks of hiring Murray: the man is a cardiologist, for heaven’s sake, not an anesthesiologist. The latter is a specialty in itself.