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Church Of Scientology Charged In Fla. Woman's Death.

The state of Florida has filed criminal charges against the Church of Scientology in connection with the 1995 death of a church member.

After a minor traffic accident in Clearwater, Fla., in November of 1995, Lisa McPherson removed her clothes and walked down the street naked. She was taken to a local hospital, where doctors wanted to admit her for psychiatric care. But she refused treatment and left the hospital with a group of Scientologists to a church-owned facility, where she spent the 17 days prior to her death. (Scientologists are adamantly opposed to psychiatric care.)

According to The New York Times, an autopsy found that McPherson died of a pulmonary embolism caused by severe dehydration. The county medical examiner concluded that she had gone without fluids for at least five to 10 days before her death.

Church officials argue that McPherson was well cared for at the facility but that she became violent and incoherent and stopped eating. They also said that when her condition worsened, she was taken to a hospital. They contend that the charges stem from a long-standing dispute between the Church of Scientology and local officials and police.

Though no charges have been filed against any individual, the church's Flag Service Organization, its chief operating arm in Clearwater, was charged with abuse or neglect of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license. The maximum penalty for each charge is a $5,000 fine. On Nov. 30, the church pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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