What Michael Jackson's Ex Debbie Rowe Really Blames For His Death

This article includes mentions of addiction.

It's been more than a decade since the world lost one of the greatest artists in music history – Michael Jackson, otherwise known as the "King of Pop." Jackson tragically died at his home in Los Angeles in June 2009 after suffering cardiac arrest due to acute propofol intoxication at 50 years old. Jackson began his career as a member of The Jackson 5, alongside his older brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon Jackson. He went on to become a superstar with his hits like "Beat It," "Bad," "Billie Jean," and "Thriller." In 1993, Michael received the Grammy Legend Award for his contributions to the music industry and enduring influence on pop culture. He was also posthumously honored with the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award during the 52rd Grammys in 2010.

In addition to an illustrious career, Jackson also led quite an interesting life and was married twice; first to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley, and then to Debbie Rowe. He and Rowe wed in 1996 after first meeting in L.A. while Rowe was working as a nurse for Jackson's dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein. They divorced in 1999 after welcoming their kids, Paris and Michael Joseph "Prince" Jackson Jr.

In a documentary released 13 years after he died, Rowe reflected on her complicated relationship with the pop superstar and admitted that she feels partly to blame for her ex-husband's death.

Debbie Rowe said she could've done more to help Michael

In the 2022 documentary "TMZ Investigates: Who Really Killed Michael Jackson?" – which explores Jackson's years-long struggle with addiction and final months — Debbie Rowe revealed that she struggled to cope with her ex-husband's death and even blamed herself for the loss. While fighting back tears, Rowe admitted that she regrets not being able to help Jackson when the singer became addicted to painkillers. "I feel horrible about not trying to stop it," she said. "To me, it's like, I should've tried harder. I should've tried to stop it. I should have done more ... and I didn't."

While married to Jackson, Rowe worked for his dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, who would prescribe strong painkillers and other drugs like Botox and Restylane to the superstar as he struggled with addiction. Despite Klein being cleared of his involvement in Jackson's death, Rowe told TMZ, "I was basically as bad as [Klein], and I am so sorry I participated in that." 

Aside from her ex-husband, Rowe said that she also blamed herself for encouraging other people's addictions while working for Dr. Klein. "There is a number of people that died from addictions and in some way I was part of it," she lamented.

Lisa Marie Presley also blamed herself

Debbie Rowe isn't the only person in Michael Jackson's life who felt responsible for his tragic death. His first wife, Lisa Marie Presley — who died in January 2023 — also admitted that she blamed herself for the loss in a blog she wrote in 2009. The post read, "The person I failed to help is being transferred right now to the L.A. County Coroners office for his Autopsy. All of my indifference and detachment that I worked so hard to achieve over the years has just gone into the bowels of hell and right now I am gutted." She also reflected on their failed marriage, saying that in wanting to save her ex-husband from his pain, she ended up losing herself. "I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened. His family and his loved ones also wanted to save him from this as well but didn't know how," she wrote. "We all worried that this would be the outcome then ... I was in over my head while trying."

Regardless of their complicated relationship, Presley told Oprah Winfrey in 2010 she loved being married to Jackson. "It was one of the highest points in my life when things were going really well, and he and I were united," she said, adding, "It was a very profound time of my life."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).