The Church of Scientology has been having a rough go of it lately: first there was the very public separation of high-ranking COS mucky-muck Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes, then the premiere of the trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s thinly disguised film about Scientology, The Master. Now, it seems, the Church has another potential media disaster on their hands: a(nother) death at one of their flagship Narconon treatment center in Canadian, Ok.
According to a story in the Village Voice, a twenty-year old patient, Stacy Dawn Murphy, is reported to have died of an overdose in the center’s withdrawal unit. That makes the third death at the center since October.
A former patient of the center, Colin Henderson, (see Colin’s story here) has been a fierce opponent of Narconon since his own stay in 2007. Henderson stated that he has written to state representative T.W. Shannon numerous times with his concerns about what he described as Narconon’s “quack science” and “low-paid, non-medical staff.” Prior to the incident, Shannon’s response was that he generally supported “faith-based treatment programs” and found nothing wrong with “facilities being up front about their priorities.”
Henderson blames the state’s Department of Mental Health for the young woman’s death and also said that it was obvious to him that Shannon had never read his email. The situation continues to unfold, but even at this early stage, to say that this looks bad for the Church would be an understatement.
Based on the teachings of Church founder L. Ron Hubbard, Narconon (an entirely different entity from Narcotics Anonymous) was established in the mid-sixties. A central tenet of Narconon is the belief that intoxicants are stored in the body’s fat tissues to be sweated out over time. When this happens, the addict’s drug cravings occur. Narconon uses sauna treatments to assist the patient in sweating out the toxins in a controlled, presumably safe environment.
Narconon has been the subject of controversy for a number of reasons beyond the questionable efficacy of its treatment methods. Narconon has offered its services to public school programs, and while Narconon’s spokespersons have stressed that the program is separate from the Church, others have questioned the veracity of the claim.