August 4, 2001 Los Angeles Times

Florida Doctor Suspended

By Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A doctor was suspended for a year for improperly prescribing Valium to unlicensed Church of Scientology workers caring for a church member who had suffered a mental breakdown.

Dr. David I. Minkoff, 53, of Clearwater, Fla., also a Scientologist, will lose his medical license for a year and will be required to practice under probation for two more years, the Board of Medicine ruled Friday. He was fined $10,000.

Lisa McPherson died Dec. 5, 1995, 17 days after being involved in a minor traffic accident. Police took her to a hospital, but she soon left with Scientology officials, who wanted her to avoid psychiatric treatment because it went against church teachings.

Minkoff prescribed both Valium and the muscle relaxant choloral hydrate for McPherson, who was battling a severe mental breakdown.

Medical examiner Joan Wood initially concluded McPherson died of a blood clot brought on by severe dehydration and bed rest. But in February, Wood dropped those as contributing factors and said McPherson died from psychosis and the auto accident.

Minkoff and the church declined comment.

"There was no intent or bad act committed by Dr. Minkoff," said Bruce Lamb, Minkoff's attorney.