Exclusive photos of Michael Jackson obtained by ABC News show a serious wound on the pop star's right leg, which a medical expert said appears to be surrounded by unusual needle punctures.
"On the photographs of Michael Jackson, it looks like there was necrosis on his lower leg where there might have been fluid that went into his lower leg," a possible result of an IV that had leaked into the leg, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a leading dermatologist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology, told ABC News.
"It looks like there are multiple puncture points from IV placement," she said.
The wound seen in the photos, which were taken in 2002, could have been a result of contact with highly caustic, acidic fluid that would burn the skin and cause it to turn black, Jaliman said.
"If, in fact, he had an IV here, and the IV fluid, which may have been acidic fluid, went into his skin, it might may have, in fact, destroyed the skin," she said. "That's all dead skin that would then make an ulceration underneath that skin."
In the photos, Jaliman highlighted areas of blue discoloration in Jackson's leg and puncture marks, which she said point to needle entry.
"If you look at his lower leg you can see puncture points here, so it looks like there was a needle entry here, possibly a needle entry here on his leg," she told ABC News.
Jaliman called the practice of placing an IV in a leg "very unusual."
"In 22 years of training, I've never seen an IV placed in the legs. You would put, you know, IVs in hands, arms, but oftentimes in my training when I have dealt with people who didn't have veins anymore in their hands or arms, you look for veins that you can use and sometimes you have to look in other areas of the body," Jaliman said.
Reports of prescription drug abuse had dogged Jackson for much of his career.
"It's Michael who wanted the drugs -- Michael who was doing it. Nobody could stop Michael except Michael himself," Schaffel said. "If, in fact, the family was able to spend time with him over the last couple years, they would know he was on drugs."
Jaliman said the photos show a loss of pigmentation consistent with vitiligo, a chronic disorder that causes depigmentation in patches of skin.
"From looking at the photographs, it looks like Michael Jackson does have vitiligo," Jaliman said, pointing to the uneven discoloration of his skin.
"Everybody tryin' to make a big thing out of it ... They say -- 'He try to paint his self white.' That's not true. Michael got vitiligo," Joe Jackson said. "We saw it comin' on him and -- at -- early age. You know, just a little spot. My aunt had the same thing. It's no cure for that ... He did not try to paint himself white."
But Jaliman said that from the photos, it appears that Jackson used a depigmentating agent on certain parts of his body to even out his skin tone.