Debbie Rowe arrives at court Aug. 14, 2013
08/15/2013 at 08:15 AM EDT
The mother of Michael Jackson
's two eldest children reluctantly testified for the defense Wednesday that Jackson inappropriately used Propofol at least 12 years before his death – and was warned that he was playing with fire.
, called to the stand for lawyers defending concert promoter AEG against the Jackson family's wrongful death case
, said Jackson used the potentially fatal anesthetic to help catch up on sleep in between show days when he brought his 1997 HIStory tour to Germany.
The two were married from 1996 to 1999.
Rowe, 54, Jackson's second wife, said Jackson was warned at the time that anesthetics were dangerous, and that using them outside of a clinical setting and to catch up on sleep was "not something you can do all the time."
Jackson, she said, "was more worried about sleeping" and had been under anesthesia so many times, it didn't scare him. She also said the anesthetic was only referred to as Diprivan, which she only recently learned is another name for Propofol.
Rowe had been a medical assistant to Jackson's dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein. She said Jackson started seeing Klein to treat his acne and later for scarring from burns he sustained shooting a Pepsi commercial.
She said it was during those later treatments that Klein discovered Jackson had Lupus.
Rowe testified that Jackson placed too much trust in his various doctors, whom she thought were trying to out-do each other in the pain medications they gave the singer.
Jackson "needed somebody to be there for him ... to not look at him as a cash cow," said Rowe, who frequently burst into tears on the witness stand as she recalled the singer's fear of pain and trust of physicians.
"Michael had a very low pain tolerance and his fear of pain was incredible," Rowe said. "I think the doctors took advantage of him that way."
In court, Rowe became frustrated at times with AEG's attorneys. "You're making it sound like he was going in all the time [for procedures that involved drugs or sedation], and he wasn't," Rowe said tearfully as she stretched her hands wide apart for emphasis. "You're talking about a 12-year period here."
But Rowe, who said she'd known Jackson for roughly 20 years, was also humorous at times. She says that, when they divorced, "he got the doctors."
The civil trial, over a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Michael's mother, Katherine Jackson
, and his children, asks that AEG be held liable for Jackson's June 2009 death
Conrad Murray, then a cardiologist placed on the payroll at Jackson's behest for the star's anticipated concert tour, was convicted of manslaughter
two years ago over his reckless use of the surgical anesthetic at Jackson's home.
The civil trial in downtown Los Angeles began in late April.