Dr. George Nichopoulos does not want his grandchildren to grow up thinking of him as a Dr. Feelgood who killed Elvis Presley. The white-haired 82-year-old former personal physician to the rock superstar dodged parallels Tuesday to his role as a one-time suspect in Elvis' death and that of Michael Jackson's personal doctor, Conrad Murray, under investigation in the death of the King of Pop.
Nichopoulos sat down with a crew from TV's "Entertainment Tonight," announcing a book, "The King and Dr. Nick," due out in February. In it, the doctor says he will tell the world he is tired of being accused of hastening Elvis' death.
"I don't regret any of the medications I gave him. They were necessities," Nichopoulos said. Dr. Nick, as he was known, was acquitted in 1981 on charges he overprescribed drugs to Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and seven others.
Much of the public was unconvinced. "Even though I was acquitted, there's still a population of people out there who didn't buy this. They wanted to blame somebody," Nichopoulos said.
"Entertainment Tonight" correspondent Victoria Recano repeatedly asked Nichopoulos to compare his role as Elvis' physician to that of Jackson's embattled doctor. Publicists for Nichopoulos' Nashville publisher, Thomas Nelson Inc., said Nichopoulos wanted to "steer clear" of the comparisons.
The interview is scheduled to air on tonight's segment of "Entertainment Tonight" at 6:30 on WREG-TV, Channel 3. The interview was at Sam Phillips Recording Studio. Rose Phillips, wife of Judd Phillips (nephew of Sun founder Sam Phillips), collaborated with Nichopolous on the book. "He loved Elvis dearly," she said, and was disappointed that he lost his license temporarily when the State Board of Medical Examiners found that he over-prescribed prescriptions for Elvis and others. It was again revoked in 1995 on similar charges. "I've detected hurt from the fact that he was never able to get matters clarified," Rose Phillips said.
Asked about the "biggest lie" over his role, Nichopoulos said: "There were so many. I guess the thing that hit me the most was I worked very hard trying to do all the right things with Elvis ... He was such a challenge. I was constantly trying to find new ways to deal with it ... It all seemed to come back in my face. I was the whipping boy."
Nichopoulos said he treated Elvis primarily for arthritis, an impacted colon and insomnia.
"Unfortunately there's not a drug you can give somebody to take care of everything. You need a different drug for every situation." He said he served as doctor for not only Elvis but up to 150 people on the road. Nichopoulos said Elvis insisted the prescriptions be written in his name in order to keep his father, Vernon Presley, from getting upset by the cost of prescription drugs for so many people. "So it looked like he (Elvis) was taking all these drugs because the prescriptions were in his name."
As Elvis' reliance on drugs became evident, Nichopoulos said he often prescribed placebos.
Nichopoulos and his attorney, Dan Warlick, said drugs in Elvis' system were not at "toxic or lethal levels" when he died. "He died a natural death," said Warlick.
Most of the autopsy team at Baptist Memorial Hospital attributed the death to "polypharmacy" or drug interaction, but former medical examiner Dr. Jerry Francisco said last year he stands by his 1977 ruling that Elvis died of cardiac arrhythmia, not drugs.