Addiction specialist rushed to see Prince before death

Agence France-Presse
Addiction specialist rushed to see Prince before death
Howard Kornfeld, who treats people with addictions to opioids, says he was supposed to fly to Prince's home in Minneapolis. His son, a medical student, was the one who found Prince unconscious

NEW YORK, USA – A specialist in painkiller addiction hurriedly made plans to see Prince hours before the music legend was found unconscious, a lawyer said Wednesday, May 4, offering possible new clues on the singer’s sudden death. (READ: Pop icon Prince dead at 57)

Prince’s representatives had contacted California-based Howard Kornfeld, who treats people with addictions to opioids, on April 20 and the doctor planned to fly two days later to the pop star’s compound in Minnesota, said Kornfeld’s attorney William Mauzy.

“Dr Kornfeld felt that his mission was a life-saving mission. He certainly felt it to be urgent,” Mauzy told reporters in Minneapolis. (READ: No signs of trauma, suicide in Prince death – police)

But Prince died on April 21 just as the doctor’s son – a medical student who pitches his father’s clinic to potential patients – arrived at Prince’s Paisley Park complex and was told that the singer was not available. (READ: Woman says she is Prince’s long-lost sister, claims part of estate)

“One of the staff members started screaming. Andrew went to the elevator where he discovered that Prince was unconscious,” Mauzy said.

The son, Andrew Kornfeld, was the voice heard in a 911 emergency call pleading for an ambulance, according to the lawyer. Kornfeld named the victim as Prince but was unable to give the street address of Paisley Park.

The elder Kornfeld runs the Recovery Without Walls clinic in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco, which offers confidential treatment.

The lawyer said that Kornfeld had also arranged for Prince on April 21 to see a local specialist, who cleared his or her schedule for the day to give the often reclusive star privacy, but the “Purple Rain” singer did not show up.

“The hope was to get him (Prince) stabilized in Minnesota and convince him to come to Recovery Without Walls,” Mauzy said.

The son hoped to encourage Prince to seek treatment “for pain management and any addiction issues,” the lawyer said.

Health scares behind facade

The account of the lawyer, who spoke publicly after the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis broke news of Kornfeld’s role, is the biggest signal yet that painkillers may have played a role in Prince’s death.

Investigators conducted an autopsy before Prince’s cremation and have not yet released a cause of death, although the Carver County Sheriff’s Department said there was no sign of trauma to his body or evidence of suicide.

Prince, who was 57, had appeared vigorous at recent concerts and had long been legendary for his marathon performances, often playing for hours or putting on two shows per night.

But Prince went through a hip replacement surgery in 2010. His April 14 concert in Atlanta, which turned out to be his last, had been rescheduled after he said he had the flu.

On his way back from Atlanta, Prince’s plane made an unscheduled stop in Moline, Illinois.

He again brushed off his illness as the flu, inviting fans afterward to Paisley Park for a dance party, but the Star Tribune quoted anonymous sources as saying that the star had overdosed on opioids, which are generally used to treat severe pain.

‘Good Samaritan’ gesture

The lawyer said that Andrew Kornfeld had carried with him a small quantity of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat addiction, that was intended for the local doctor to administer to Prince.

Kornfeld neither gave medicine to Prince nor saw him conscious, the lawyer said.

Mauzy voiced concern that Andrew Kornfeld could face charges but said he was on solid legal ground.

“He was taken into custody and interviewed and told there was a criminal investigation,” Mauzy said, but added that the son was then allowed to return quickly to San Francisco with no further interrogation.

The 911 call was a “Good Samaritan” gesture that should provide him legal immunity, Mauzy said.

Prince, who sold more than 100 million records, was widely considered one of the most talented and influential artists of his generation. Unlike many stars, he chose to stay near his hometown, Minneapolis, rather than move away. 

He left no will, with a court temporarily assigning an administrator recommended by Prince’s sister to handle his estate, which includes vaults full of unreleased material.

In a tribute to Prince, radio stations led by Minnesota’s The Current on Wednesday planned to play Prince’s ballad “Nothing Compares 2 U” simultaneously at 5:07 pm (2207 GMT).

The timing comes from the opening lyric to the 1985 heartache song – “It’s been seven hours and 13 days since you took your love away.” – Shaun Tandon, AFP/Rappler.com

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