Former physician linked to dead womanBy CHERYL WALDRIP of The Tampa Tribune
CLEARWATER - A woman who helped transport Scientologist Lisa McPherson to the hospital was a former Arizona physician whose license expired as the state's medical board was scrutinizing her.
McPherson, 36, died of a blood clot 17 days after she arrived at the Church of Scientology's downtown Clearwater headquarters. An autopsy showed the clot was brought on by ``severe dehydration and bed rest.''
On Dec. 5, 1995, fellow Scientologists - including former physician Janis K. Johnson-Fitzgerald - took McPherson by van to HCA/Columbia Hospital in New Port Richey. McPherson was dead on arrival.
Hospital records list Johnson- Fitzgerald as the person to be notified in an emergency.
Johnson-Fitzgerald could not be reached for comment this week.
Scientology spokesman Brian Anderson wrote in a prepared statement Friday that Johnson-Fitzgerald became a member of the church in the summer of 1994.
``She got off drugs and overcame any further need for drugs after becoming a church member,'' Anderson wrote.
``She wasn't a doctor when she joined the church and was not hired as a doctor. She has not worked in the capacity of a doctor since being on staff in the church.''
Anderson said she did work in the church's ``medical liaison office'' in late 1995 through early 1996. That office, he said, provides referrals to outside medical professionals.
He said its personnel does not provide medical advice. The employees' only role is to refer patients to outside professionals, he said.
In late November 1992, Northwest Hospital in Tucson reported to the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners suspicions that Johnson-Fitzgerald might have been using a narcotic painkiller called fentanyl.
Nurses reported that she took frequent trips to the bathroom and kept syringes in her pockets. She also was alleged to have removed a narcotic painkiller called Sufenta from the operating suite. Another hospital reported vague but similar allegations.
Johnson-Fitzgerald had been taking injections of Dalgan, a brand name of a narcotic painkiller, for chronic pain associated with foot and back problems. In her medical practice, she worked in the operating room and also treated chronic pain patients.
A transcript of a medical board interview in July 1993 shows that after Johnson-Fitzgerald explained some of the allegations, a doctor on the board asked: ``So in the vernacular, `you was framed?' ''
``I think so,'' Johnson-Fitzgerald replied.
The board's staff was ``fairly well satisfied'' the drug abuse allegations had no merit, though they believed she was dependent on pain medication. She said she was not addicted, and said she had stopped taking pain medication.
She agreed to enter into a voluntary agreement that restricted her license. The restrictions included not practicing clinical medicine, surrendering her access to controlled substances and submitting to random drug tests.
In October, however, staff reported to the board that Johnson- Fitzgerald objected to some of the wording in the agreement and therefore didn't sign it. She also had refused to provide a urine sample. Records indicate she had lied to the board when she said she had not had psychiatric treatment.
She did not attend the October meeting, but wrote a letter saying she felt she was being treated like a criminal and an incompetent.
The board amended the agreement, but said if she didn't sign it, the matter would be turned over to a hearing officer for investigation and her license could be suspended or revoked. She soon signed the agreement. The board reconvened in July at her request to consider removing the restrictions and inactivating her license. Johnson-Fitzgerald did not show up and the matter was put on hold. It was never picked up again because her license had expired in May 1994.
Johnson-Fitzgerald received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit in 1983. She received a Michigan doctor's license in 1984 and briefly worked for Saratoga Community Hospital in Detroit.
She completed residency in anesthesiology at Detroit's Sinai Hospital in 1986. Afterward, she worked for a Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Albuquerque.
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