Doctors have long contended that medical malpractice cases shouldn't be decided by juries composed of the general public. These jurors just aren't knowledgeable enough about medicine to make an intelligent decision about proper medical conduct. Instead they are easily swayed by crafty lawyers who prey on their emotions. As an alternative medical cases should be overseen by judges who have been specially trained in handling medical cases.
The just concluded Michael Jackson, or more specifically the Jackson family, trial against his concert promoter AEG offers more proof for this common sense approach. The family sued AEG for at least $1 billion because they contend the company hired Michael's disgraced personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, which led to his death by propofol oversedation in the singer's private bedroom. If the company knew that the doctor was incompetent and only hired him to help get Michael on stage to perform for his comeback tour with no regard for his well being, then AEG could be found liable for his death. Since this was only a civil trial, only nine out of twelve jurors had to agree.
As it turned out today, the jury did agree that AEG hired Dr. Murray. However, when it came time to answer the question of whether the doctor was "unfit or incompetent to perform the work for which he was hired," the jurors said that he was competent to work as a doctor. Excuse me? This is the assessment of a doctor whose medical judgement is so poor that he gave a surgical anesthetic to a patient in a private home with no monitoring of any kind? This jury gave the doctor a pass even though the cardiologist didn't even know how to do a proper CPR when his patient needed it?
Says Gregg Barden, the jury foreman, "Conrad Murray had a license; he graduated from an accredited college." Another juror, Kevin Smith, stated, "Murray was fit and competent for the job he was hired for...Michael Jackson thought he was competent enough." So these impartial citizens all thought Dr. Murray's lack of medical skills and the resulting death of his one patient was not enough to deem him an unqualified physician. Maybe we can use this trial as evidence that medical cases need to be moved out of the reach of jurors and into special medical courtrooms. Maybe Mr. Jackson's death won't be in vain after all.