Talk of drug use continues to dog Jackson’s death

Michael Jackson is shown rehearsing at the Staples Center on June 23, two days before his death.
Michael Jackson traveled with what amounted to a "mini-clinic," complete with an IV pole and an anesthesiologist who medicated the insomniac singer, during his HIStory tour in the mid-90s, sources close to Jackson told CNN Thursday.

The information sheds new light on perhaps the central unanswered question in Michael Jackson’s death: Were prescription drugs involved On Thursday, the California State Attorney General’s office said that it is helping the Los Angeles police department in the death investigation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is also looking into the role of drugs, two federal law enforcement sources said a day earlier. Authorities do not know what killed Jackson and await toxicology results, which are due back in two to three weeks, the Los Angeles County coroner said Wednesday. Whether or not drugs played a role in the singer’s death, the accounts of the sources who spoke to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta show that Jackson was — at least in the past — routinely administered potent drugs to help him sleep. It was one of several developments Thursday: — Brother Jermaine Jackson told CNN’s Larry King that the family will hold a private ceremony Tuesday before a massive public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Fans will have to register for 11,000 tickets that organizers will give out for the latter event. Watch Jermaine Jackson discuss brother’s life, death » — The mother of Jackson’s eldest children, Debbie Rowe, said through her lawyer that she “has not reached a final decision” on whether she will fight for custody, after telling a television station earlier that she would.

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— And a minute-and-a-half video clip was released that showed the 50-year-old Jackson in rehearsals two nights before his death — apparently healthy, albeit a step slower than in his prime. Prescription drug allegations continue to hound death Speculation about the role of drugs has been swirling since Jackson died on June 25 — and the sources who spoke with Gupta about the HIStory tour seemed to fuel the fire. The anesthesiologist who accompanied Jackson during the 82-date world tour in 1996 and 1997 was Dr. Neil Ratner, the sources said. They said Ratner would keep medical equipment in his hotel room, which he used to monitor Jackson’s vital signs when the singer was asleep or “under,” as one source put it. The doctor apparently said Jackson had trouble sleeping and that Ratner helped “take him down” and “bring him back up,” according to the source. Ratner confirmed to CNN that Jackson suffered from a sleep disorder, but refused to address any of the other allegations. “It’s really something I don’t want to talk about right now,” he said outside his Woodstock, New York, home Thursday. Ratner was stripped of his license to practice medicine for three years in 2002 after he was found guilty of insurance fraud. The allegations follow claims by a nutritionist, Cherilyn Lee, who said earlier in the week that Jackson pleaded for the powerful sedative, Diprivan, despite being told of its harmful effects.


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Doctors say the drug, known by its generic name Propofol, can lead to cardiac arrest — when the heart abruptly stops, as happened in Jackson’s case. Fans abuzz over memorial, rehearsal clip Early Friday morning, the Internet was abuzz as fans discussed the memorial service slated for the 20,000-seat Staples Center at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Jermaine Jackson said his family was working with city authorities to ensure the service proceeds incident-free, as thousands are expected to converge on the city to mourn the pop icon. “They’re trying their best and with the time frame we have, we’re hoping everybody’s going to be safe,” he said. The family has not yet announced burial plans, but a long line of TV satellite trucks and their crews waited outside the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Cemetery. Cemetery officials have not commented on whether Jackson is to be buried there. Also a topic of animated back-and-forth online was the rehearsal clip that concert promoter, AEG Live, released. It showed Jackson leading eight backup dancers in a choreographed march, reminiscent of his breakthrough music video “Thriller.” “He still moves better at 50 than I could at 15,” said Stephanie Siek, a graduate student in Frankfurt, Germany. The head of AEG, Richard Phillips, said the clip of the song “They Don’t Care About Us,” shot at the Staples Center on June 23, also showed that Jackson was energetic and excited about his 50 sold-out shows scheduled in London, beginning in mid-July. A doctor, hired by the tour’s insurance carrier, examined Jackson before AEG proceeded with the rehearsals, Phillips said. Jackson was given the singer the green light to continue, he said. “He examined Michael for about five hours at his house and I think they went somewhere for some other tests,” Phillips said. “We are obviously not privy to the patient-doctor relationship with that information, but the insurance broker told us that he passed with flying colors.” The next night, Phillips said, Jackson put his arm around the promoter after rehearsals and whispered: “I know I can do this.” Custody fight possible Thursday’s other significant development came when Debbie Rowe’s lawyer, Eric George, said the mother of Jackson’s two eldest children is still undecided about fighting for custody. A Los Angeles TV station quoted Rowe Thursday morning saying, “I want my children.” “I have no reason to doubt that what was reported from that conversation was accurately and ethically reported but, that said, it would be a distortion of the truth to allow that single snapshot of the single conversation to stand as the truth of Debbie’s position on these sensitive matters,” George said. Rowe, who was briefly married to the singer, gave up parental rights of the now 11-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy to Jackson in 2001. She changed her mind more than two years later and sought temporary custody of the children. A California appeals court later ruled her rights were improperly terminated, opening the door to a possible custody battle. In his will, Jackson placed his entire estate, which he estimated to be worth at least $500 million, into a family trust. He intentionally left Rowe out of his will. According to those with direct knowledge of the contents of the trust, Jackson stipulated that 40 percent of the assets go to his mother, and after her death, to his three children. Another 40 percent will be shared by his three children. And the remaining 20 percent will benefit charities designated by the executors of the will, the source said.

A judge has delayed until July 13 a hearing to decide whether Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson’s mother, will remain the temporary guardian of Jackson’s children. The mother of the Jackson’s third child, 7, has never been publicly identified.