Scientology Doctor Faces Suspension


Published: Jul 25, 2001

TALLAHASSEE - Nearly six years after the death of a Church of Scientology member, a doctor involved in the case faces a one- year license suspension and $10,000 fine.

Administrative Judge William F. Quattlebaum ruled in May that although Clearwater physician David Minkoff was not responsible for the death of Lisa McPherson, he illegally prescribed Valium and chloral hydrate to her at the behest of other church members. Minkoff was also a member of the church.

``The risk ... from the practice of prescribing medication without personal knowledge of the patient is great,'' Quattlebaum wrote, suggesting Minkoff pay a $10,000 fine and be suspended from practicing for one year.

The Florida Board of Medicine is scheduled to meet in Tallahassee on Aug. 3 to consider the recommended punishment. Board spokesman Bill Parizek said Tuesday that the board's final decision is usually similar to a judge's recommendation.

Minkoff's Tampa attorney, Bruce Lamb, said he could not comment until he had spoken with his client.

McPherson died in December 1995 after church members brought her to Columbia New Port Richey Hospital, where Minkoff worked.

McPherson was alleged to have been confined by the church and denied adequate medical treatment. Criminal charges against the church were dropped last year after the autopsy reports were revised to reflect that the cause of death was ``accidental.''

Prior to the dismissal of charges, Pasco-Pinellas Medical Examiner Joan Wood said McPherson may not have had anything to drink for up to 17 days prior to her death. Wood also said McPherson was bruised with cracked skin, had cockroach bites on her body and was comatose for up to two days prior to being taken to the hospital.

Although admitting no guilt, Minkoff reached a $100,000 settlement in 1997 in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by McPherson's estate.

Joe Follick covers state government and can be reached at (850) 222-8382.