On Leah Remini’s Scientology-focused docuseries, she explores the circumstances behind the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson. McPherson died while under the care of the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc., on December 5, 1995, in Clearwater, Florida. She was only 36 years old at the time of her death, as reported by The Washington Post.
So, let’s get into the story behind McPherson’s unexpected passing. According to the NY Times, she was involved in a small traffic accident, which left her uninjured. She proceeded to take off her clothes and walk naked down the street for help. McPherson was reportedly taken to a local hospital for psychiatric examination. Then, several Scientologists arrived and explained that Scientology’s religion does not believe in psychiatry, as reported by the NY Times. McPherson was released to the Scientologists and she died 17 days later.
According to Douglas Frantz of the NY Times, “By church accounts, she had spit out food, banged violently on the walls of her room and hallucinated. The county medical examiner said Ms. McPherson was deprived of water for at least her last 5 to 10 days and died of a blood clot brought on by severe dehydration. Church officials denied responsibility for the death and challenged the medical examiner’s findings.” Cult Education reported that the Church of Scientology’s records showed McPherson had received a prescription sedative, magnesium injections and chloral hydrate doses while under their care. In addition, she was cared for by a doctor who was not licensed in the state of Florida but worked for the church.
When the doctor diagnosed McPherson as septic and said she needed antibiotics, she was driving to a hospital where she was seen by a doctor who was a Scientologist as well. McPherson was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Lisa Clause reported that in 1997, McPherson’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against the Church of Scientology.
The Lisa Clause stated that what led to McPherson’s death was that, “She was held against her will for 17 days, denied medical care, and forcibly sedated. When her guards tried to force her to undergo the Introspection Rundown and she refused, she was kept in an isolation lock-down until she died from severe dehydration. Forensic entomologists later identified 110 cockroach feeding sites on her body, and three nationally prominent forensic pathologists opined that the manner of death was ‘homicide’.”
After McPherson’s death, Mike Rinder, then a senior spokesman for Scientology, didn’t respond to questions about McPherson, but he issued a statement calling the “circumstances” of her death “unfortunate,” and stating that the Church of Scientology had no “intent to do any harm” to her, according to The Washington Post. Today, Rinder accompanies Leah Remini as the co-host of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
So, what ever happened with McPherson’s wrongful death suit? Cult Education reported that the Church of Scientology ultimately reached a settlement 7 years later. Church spokesman Ben Shaw said that, “This settlement was reached four years ago when the medical examiner corrected the death certificate and found Lisa’s death to have been accidental, caused by a sudden, unexpected pulmonary embolism.”