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Debbie Rowe testifies Jackson had used propofol as sleep aid

Michael Jackson's ex-wife, called by AEG in the wrongful-death suit, says the singer used the drug to help him sleep while on a concert tour in the mid-'90s.

August 15, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb and Matt Hamilton
  • Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson's former wife and mother of two of his children, leaves Los Angeles County Superior Court after testifying Wednesday.
Debbie Rowe, Michael Jackson's former wife and mother of two of his… (Nick Ut, Associated Press )

Michael Jackson's ex-wife testified Wednesday that the singer used propofol to sleep on two occasions while giving concerts in Germany in the mid-1990s, the first evidence in the wrongful-death trial that he had previously used the powerful anesthetic — which eventually killed him — for other than medical procedures.

Debbie Rowe said she and Jackson both called Dr. Allan Metzger, Jackson's internist, complaining the singer couldn't sleep. She said Jackson told her that sleeping pills hadn't worked and that "he was at the end of his rope."

Metzger arranged for a German medical team to go to Jackson's hotel suite in Munich. Rowe said the two Germans brought enough equipment that the hotel room resembled a surgical suite.

Rowe said her husband was unconscious for eight hours while the medical team monitored him. She said Jackson used the anesthetic again three days later. She said this was the only time she witnessed the singer using the anesthetic for sleep.

Experts have testified that being unconscious from propofol is not the same as sleep.

Earlier in the day, Rowe portrayed the singer as being whipsawed between doctors who were competing to see who could give him the most powerful painkillers while she was trying to wean him from the drugs.

She spent much of her testimony describing drugs administered by dermatologist Arnold Klein, her employer, and plastic surgeon Steven Hoefflin.

"Michael had a very low pain tolerance, and his fear of pain was incredible, and I think the doctors took advantage of him that way," Rowe said.

Rowe was called as a witness by AEG Live in the suit filed by Jackson's mother and three children. The Jacksons say that AEG negligently hired and supervised Conrad Murray, the cardiologist who administered the fatal dose of propofol to Jackson in June 2009 as he was rehearsing for a 50-concert comeback in London. AEG says that the singer hired Murray and that any money the company was supposed to pay the doctor was an advance to Jackson.

Rowe, the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, who spoke in colorful, folksy language, joked about her 60-mile drive to the downtown Los Angeles courtroom, flashed anger at an AEG attorney and cried several times.

She portrayed herself as the singer's best friend and guardian. "He trusted people — foolishly, foolishly trusted a lot of people," she said as Jackson's mother nodded in agreement.

Rowe described meeting Jackson while working as an assistant for Klein in the early 1980s, when the singer came in for treatment of his acne. Although she often has been described as a nurse, Rowe said her only formal training was as an emergency medical technician.

The couple were married in 1996 and divorced three years later. Rowe gave up her parental rights in 2001.

Rowe said Klein and Hoefflin would try to one-up each other by prescribing Jackson stronger drugs.

"These idiots were going back and forth the whole time, not caring about him," she testified.

Rowe said she was with Jackson about 10 times when Hoefflin gave him propofol while undergoing various procedures, such as collagen and botox injections. She said Klein also gave him propofol.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

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