THE 'SPIRITUAL' LIFE
Judge allows suit against Scientology official in member's death
By Diego Ribadeneira, Globe Staff, 12/18/1999
top official in the Church of Scientology can be named a defendant in a lawsuit stemming from the 1995 death of a church member, a Florida judge has ruled.
Lisa McPherson was a Scientology church member who died while in the care of other church members after suffering a mental breakdown and physical problems in Clearwater, Fla.
In their lawsuit, McPherson's family alleges that David Miscavige, a top Scientology official, is in complete control of Scientology and oversaw McPherson's medical care.
According to a medical examiner's report, she died of a blood clot caused by prolonged bed rest and dehydration. Miscavige is chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center that, according to church documents, is mainly responsible for safeguarding Scientology copyrights and trademarks.
The church has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in McPherson's death. According to published reports, after suffering a breakdown, McPherson was kept for 17 days at a Scientology-owned hotel in Clearwater where she was kept in isolation and given herbal remedies, vitamins, and sedatives.
Despite losing nearly 50 pounds, McPherson was never examined by a licensed medical doctor. By the time she was taken to a hospital she was pronounced dead on arrival.
In 1998, Miscavige told The St. Petersburg Times he was not responsible for overseeing McPherson's medical treatment. The family's suit, however, alleges he was aware of McPherson's serious health problems and instructed her caretakers on what do for her.
A trial in the case had been set for next June but the ruling by Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge James S. Moody involving Miscavage likely means a long delay in the case because Scientology attorneys say Miscavage will have to hire his own lawyers.