- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The differing opinions of two professors on how a powerful anesthetic killed Michael Jackson has left jurors with two scenarios to consider about how the King of Pop died, and in the process has also strained the relationship of the two longtime collaborators and friends.

Armed with decades of experience, IV bags and syringes, the men showed jurors how a powerful, milky-white anesthetic may have flowed from a bottle into Jackson’s body on the morning of June 25, 2009.

Doctors Paul White and Steven Shafer worked alongside each other for years and are credited with helping bring propofol to operating rooms and making its usage safe.

But their different theories on how Jackson died from the drug _ whether his personal physician Conrad Murray administered it or the singer injected it himself _ have sparked a clash of harsh rhetoric between the two men more familiar with operating rooms and classrooms than the high stakes of a celebrity trial.

White and Shafer were colleagues at Stanford University and conducted research on propofol before it was approved for use in U.S. operating rooms in 1989. Both help edit a leading anesthesia journal. Until White’s retirement last year, both were practicing anesthesiologists.

Each man’s search to explain how Jackson died led them to conduct their own research and computer modeling.

The tension between them began after Shafer, an affable Columbia University researcher, told jurors on Oct. 20 that he was “disappointed” in White for suggesting earlier that Jackson may have drunk the fatal dose of propofol.

Shafer’s dismissive comment that even first-year medical students knew that wouldn’t work cut deeply for White, who worked on propofol for six years before it was approved for use in the United States.

As Shafer testified, White occasionally shook his head until being admonished by a judge to stop making any gestures in court.

White, according to a report posted online by E! Entertainment Television, turned to reporters while Shafer testified and called either Shafer or a prosecutor a “scumbag.” White later told a judge he didn’t recall making the remark but acknowledged talking to an E! reporter about being bothered by Shafer’s testimony.

“Of course, when someone makes derogatory comments about you in court, it has an effect on you,” White told the judge. “I was very disappointed in Dr. Shafer’s remark.”

White’s interview may earn him a contempt-of-court violation for violating a gag order, but that issue will be decided after Murray’s trial is concluded.

The courtroom rhetoric between the men cooled last week, with White repeatedly crediting Shafer for his work.

Dr. Shafer is actually a good friend, and he actually helped me on a number of the papers,” White testified.

White left behind any hurt feelings as he took the witness stand and matter-of-factly detailed his theory that Jackson must have given himself a fatal dose of propofol. It was the only explanation, White said, for the levels of the drug found in Jackson’s blood and urine during an autopsy.

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