AP Wire story on upcoming Public Eye segment:

01/06/98 11:41:15 AM


What led to the death of 36-year-old scientologist Lisa McPherson two years ago? CBS News legal correspondent Kristin Jeannette-Meyers reports on the controversy surrounding McPherson's death which followed a 17-day quarantine at a Scientology center -- where it is estimated that she lost 40 pounds and suffered from bruises and insect bite marks all over her body -- to be broadcast on PUBLIC EYE

WITH BRYANT GUMBEL, Wednesday, Jan. 7, (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

McPherson's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. The church says it was a sudden, unexpected death, but Scientology critics say the church should have hospitalized McPherson during these 17 days. McPherson's aunt, her closest living relative, tells PUBLIC EYE she thinks criminal charges should be filed against the church, ``I definitely do, because I feel as though they killed her.'' McPherson's death is the subject of an on-going, two-year criminal investigation by the Clearwater Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The only window into what happened to McPherson comes from logs kept by Scientologists who were assigned to watch her during the 17-day period. These records, which were made public by the church after the lawsuit was filed, indicate that two days into her quarantine, McPherson was spitting out food and vomiting -- and four days into her stay she became feverish, violent, started striking attendants, began hallucinating and soiled herself. According to the coroner's office, McPherson died of a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot that traveled to her heart. The autopsy report states that extended ``bed rest and severe dehydration'' contributed to her death.

Attorney Laura Vaughn who represents the church, tells Jeannette-Meyers, ``Nobody knew she had .125a fatal blood clot.375.

She was taken to the hospital, she died. She arrived dead at the hospital. The people at the hospital had no idea what killed her. The people taking care of her did not know she was going to die.'' Instead of taking McPherson to the closest hospital, a group of Scientologists drove 24 miles to see a doctor who was a Scientologist. Vaughn says that McPherson ``had obviously had some sort of mental problem and I think people thought the best situation would be for her to see someone who was a Scientologist.''

McPherson, a member of the Church of Scientology for 18 years, worked for a publishing company owned by the church. She helped spearhead community projects sponsored by the church, and, in the last two years of her life, she donated about 40 percent of her earnings to the church. Yet, McPherson's family believes that the incident that forced McPherson into 17 days of confinement was a cry for help. She was involved in a minor car accident in her hometown of Clearwater. Although there were no injuries, the paramedics made a routine call to the scene and found that McPherson had taken off all of her clothes and was walking down the street naked. Paramedic Bonnie Portalano explains, ``.125McPherson.375 said, I wanted people to think I was crazy, so then I could get some help...' She just kept reiterating, I want to talk, I want to talk.''' McPherson was transported to a nearby hospital. Although she had no physical injuries, doctors wanted her to remain overnight for observation, but after a group of Scientologists arrived she asked to be released into the care of church members. The Church of Scientology does not believe in psychiatry as a form of treatment.

Michael Rubin is executive producer of PUBLIC EYE WITH BRYANT GUMBEL.

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AP-NY-01-06-98 1237EST