Whitney Houston's death certificate reveals little about cause

Feb 16 2012 - 3:46pm

LOS ANGELES -- Whitney Houston's death certificate reveals little about what caused the pop star's death.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health death certificate, released this week, states that the manner of death was "pending investigation." No other details were provided.

Authorities collected several bottles of prescription drugs from Houston's suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was found dead Saturday. But officials have said the amounts of drugs did not seem unusually large, leaving it unclear whether the medications had anything to do with the singer's death.

Officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests on Houston's body.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office said Wednesday that investigators had asked "a number" of doctors to provide them with Houston's medical information.

Experts said it could be challenging to build a complete list of a subject's prescription drugs, particularly a celebrity's. Some celebrities use the names of their assistants -- or fake names -- on prescriptions, they said.

L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Opferman, who oversees a prescription drug task force but is not involved in the Houston case, said, "Celebrities often get their prescription drugs from doctors who are more than willing to give them what they want and sometimes using members of their entourage."

Opferman also said that some people also turn to illegal drugs when their prescriptions run out, placing the new drugs in old bottles.

Investigators were serving subpoenas as part of the inquiry. "Subpoena power is one of the wonderful tools an investigator uses to get information from pharmacies and doctors," added Dave Campbell, a retired captain from the coroner's office. "You're primarily seeking documents, not the persons who treated or prescribed, because you are doing a death investigation, not a criminal investigation."

Campbell said investigators generally concentrate on the physicians most clearly connected to any prescription drugs recovered or conditions they know about. "You saw a lot of this in the Michael Jackson case and I'm sure it will be useful in this incidence," Campbell added, referring to the death investigation focusing on prescription drugs launched after Jackson died in 2009.

After Jackson died, authorities spent months looking at bags full of prescription drugs found at his home. Conrad Murray was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the singer's death.

Investigators in the Houston case will probably also use a state-created database with more than 100 million entries for controlled substances prescribed in California.

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(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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