Michael Jackson's Death: Why Cardiac Arrest Is Deadlier Than Heart Attack

June 25, 2009


By Theresa Tamkins

THURSDAY, June 25, 2009 (Health.com) — Iconic pop star Michael Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest and died on Thursday at the age of 50. Details of his death are still emerging, but friends and relatives say they have been concerned about Jackson’s use of prescription painkillers.

Brian Oxman, the Jackson family spokesman and attorney, told CNN that people surrounding Jackson were “enabling” him in his use of medications. Jackson had suffered a number of injuries, including a broken vertebra and a broken leg sustained in a fall on stage, Oxman said.

“If you think the case of Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it is nothing in comparison to what we have seen taking place in Michael Jackson’s life,” Oxman told CNN.

“I do not know the extent of the medications that he was taking, but the reports that we have been receiving in the family is that it was extensive,” he said. “This is something which I feared and it is something that I warned about.”

Douglas Zipes, MD, a distinguished professor at the Indiana University Medical Center and past president of the American College of Cardiology, says that drug abuse can contribute to a cardiac arrest.

“Certainly drugs, in someone like Michael Jackson, have to considered,” he says. “We know that drugs like cocaine and amphetamines can trigger a cardiac arrest by themselves, and the summation of multiple drugs could ultimately result in a cardiac arrest.”

Jackson may have been underweight as well. He reportedly weighed 120 pounds in 2003. At 5’10” or 5’11” (reports vary), he would have had a body mass index of 16 or 17, and anything below 18.5 is considered underweight.

In recent months, friends and relatives had described Jackson as even more frail. Filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller, who visited Jackson in April, told People, “I hugged him and it was like hugging bones.” And a fan who recently met Michael Jackson at a tour rehearsal reportedly wrote in an email this week, “He is a skeleton.”

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