Lisa McPherson, a parishioner of the Church of Scientology for nearly 20 years, died in Clearwater, Florida in December 1995 from a pulmonary embolism. Her death, which would be unremarkable under other circumstances, has been perverted and exploited by a bigoted element in Clearwater, which has been involved in actions for the last two and a half decades, calculated to harm the Church.
Just over two weeks before she died, Lisa was in a minor traffic accident. Although she appeared to be uninjured, she displayed bizarre and distraught behaviour and was taken to a hospital. She was checked by both medical and psychiatric staff. Lisa wanted no part in and no possibility of any sort of psychiatric treatment. She also was found not to be a danger to herself or others. She said she wanted to go with her friends from the Church and she was released into their care. Scientologists are staunchly opposed to harmful psychiatric treatment.
Lisa stayed at the Church's hotel in Clearwater on her own decision and she was assisted there by her Church friends and other members who cared for her 24 hours per day. After two weeks she rapidly fell quite ill. She was taken to a hospital and found dead on arrival. No one caring for her or who took her to the hospital had any idea of the severity of her physical condition -- a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot on the lungs) which was undetectable and unpreventable. Over 50,000 Americans die a year from pulmonary embolisms and similar cases have occurred where people have died two weeks after receiving a bump in a minor traffic accident. People now also can get these flying on long-haul airflights.
Lisa's death was looked into by an investigator of the Clearwater Police Department who, by May 1996, ended the matter and closed the file.
Months later however, in October, the investigator was removed, another put in his place and the case re-opened. This occurred immediately following an inquiry made by German media to the Clearwater Police Department (CPD). The Church had already been involved with dealing with a handful of bigoted CPD officers and the St Petersburg Times newspapers. The individuals involved in using Lisa's death to attack the Church were those same individuals who had tried to drive the Church of Scientology out of Clearwater by passing local ordinances aimed at making it impossible for the Church to exist there. The Church sued the City of Clearwater and won, with the Court of Appeals condemning the actions of the city and the media who egged them on. The City of Clearwater paid the Church $635,000 in legal fees and costs.
These same Clearwater players became involved in the Lisa McPherson matter, seeing this as another opportunity to try to drive the Church out of the area. They hooked up and were supported by a group of individuals who had a history of attempting to extort millions of dollars from the Church by levelling wild, outrageous claims against the Church and on the Internet.
Since then, Lisa's death was turned into a macabre circus. In November, 1998 the State brought charges against the Clearwater, Florida based Church, claiming the Church was negligent in caring for Lisa. Many of the facts were withheld or suppressed by the media and those articles that resulted were one sided and filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations. The main newspaper of the area, the St Petersburg Times, agitated and goaded local government officials, questioning whether the State Attorney could "stand up to" the Church. Their coverage also created threats and created actual violence against Scientologists and the Church in Clearwater (including bomb threats and a knife attack).
The Church of Scientology had antagonists who saw fit to capitalize on this, and they used this case as a means to attack the Church. The case became a forum used by others to pursue their own agenda in a celebration over the death of a person they never knew, but despised anyway because of her chosen religion. Attacks are seldom new for any religion, and like others, Scientology has its share and has had to learn to deal with them.
Witnesses against the Church, prior to the court dismissal, had been labelled by the court as unreliable.
Claims against the Church were dismissed as inaccurate by a medical entomologist, as was other so called evidence.
The actual case had initially started when the autopsy (the Church had wanted it) was performed by the medical examiner, Dr. Woods. The examiner gave a report that was based on 19 slides from the autopsy and this report was damning of the Church. However, later investigation found that the report was deliberately biased and was not made by the person who performed the autopsy, which was the examiners assistant. Dr Woods, the examiner, destroyed the original autopsy notes and the assistant who did the autopsy, Dr Robert Davis, refused to sign the autopsy report after his superior "lost" his notes. So Dr Woods lied and swore with her signature that she performed the autopsy. Dr Davis also was intimidated by his superior, being cautioned to not speak to the media, the police and she also cautioned him from speaking to the State Attorney. Dr Davis then testified that he did not concur with Dr Wood's fundamental findings that she made up as she destroyed his notes and was not present for the actual autopsy.
Investigation found that the report had withheld 2 critical slides which had been destroyed as these showed that Lisa had died instantaneously of a sudden, unpredictable pulmonary embolism, and had she been in hospital she would have died of the same. The embolism was almost certainly as a result of the minor injury to her leg in the car accident two weeks before her death.
The investigation also showed that Lisa did not die of severe dehydration, and dehydration was not the cause of death, as critics had first claimed. There was also no evidence of suffering of any coma. It was further found in a civil suit that the medical examiner's office had even destroyed documents concerning the matter of Lisa which had contained evidence showing the Church's innocence. And in addition to that the medical examiner's office covered up other evidence that had proved their allegations false and that Lisa's death was accidental and unpredictable.
On the 12 June 2000 the Pinellas County Florida State Attorney dismissed charges against the Church of Scientology. The decision came after the local Medical Examiner amended the death certificate of Lisa McPherson, finding that the death was accidental -- and not attributable to any actions of the Church or its staff.
The state attorney wrote, "You will please enter a Nole Prosequi (unwilling to prosecute) as to the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc., in the above-entitled cause due to the State's inability to prove critical forensic causation issues...."
The information revealed showed the extent to which key players and media in particular omitted, ignored, twisted or simply invented facts concerning Lisa McPherson's death. To use one woman's unfortunate death as a means to try to attack and sully her own chosen religion is despicable. That assault was accomplished only through illegal evidence tampering and cover up.
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