Tough Time for Scientology Continues with Death in Narconon Treatment Center

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.

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  • Iconography

    I don’t want to be seen defending CoS, however, there is something “off” about the Colin Henderson story. The way he notes he, and other family members, repeatedly questioned – in advance – if Scientology was “taught” at Narconon comes across as a little weird. 

    He never indicates if that was a routine question he asked of all addiction programs he looked into (which would be weird), or if he knew in advance Narconon was CoS owned (in which case it would be equally weird he’d even go there). The intentional skipping of this rather important point raises a little bit of an issue for me. 

    Second, his frequent repetition of the line “I needed to know if this was the right choice for me” and variations of it seems like he’s trying to imbue the reader with a sense of his innocence and susceptibility to manipulation. This is verbiage one would find in marketing material, not personal narrative. 

    There are 1,000 reasons CoS needs to be criticized. Planting activists doesn’t really help that cause. 

    • Iconography

      OK, I’ve made it as far now in this long, long story as the point where he’s “filing a grievance” on his 4th day because someone didn’t give him a phone message. 

      My instinct is to say “typical CoS”, however, if I’m being objective and change the name of CoS to “XYZ Fantasy Baseball Camp” I would probably say Colin is coming across as kind of a tool for initiating a formal grievance process because someone didn’t give him a phone message. Who does that? 

      • Iconography

        OK, sorry, I just stopped reading altogether. Now he’s complaining he didn’t get to use the golf course. 

        Like I said, there are 1,000 reason to criticize CoS. Colin’s story is not one of them. 

        • Iconography

          LOL, okay I kept reading because it’s actually started to get pretty funny. Colin says: 

          — I went down to the receptionist’s desk in the front lobby. I told her that I wanted a confront with John Shaffer and Paul Wise. She told me they were in a meeting and that they could not be interrupted. This was the wrong answer. I said “I don’t care if they are in a meeting. Get them on the phone right now”. She said “It is not Narconon’s policy to interrupt internal meetings”. So I said “I don’t care what Narconon’s policy is, get them on the phone right now, because I can have anything I want”.  —

          I’m going to try that trick next time someone’s in a meeting and I can’t wait to see them! 

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Speaking for people who have had direct contact with Active Narcanon employees and facilities:

    this ain’t even the half of it kids.

    It’s par for the course. Most facilities are are staffed by former recovered patients…who are prone to relapse and corruption. The ‘program’ for recovery is so heavily linked to Scientology beliefs that it IS a course in Scientology 101 masked as a recovery program. The policies for monitoring the health of patients is only barely balanced by the presence of required medical professionals…many of whom are hamstrung by Narconon policy against genuine medical treatment except in the most dire of emergencies (by which time it can be too late). The sheer volume of scams getting run thru Narconon offices would be grounds for closure …if they weren’t hidden by the convenient ‘religious’ protections granted them. It probably doesn’t help that the management  themselves are ALSO former patients or Scientology converts who enjoy a philosophy that excuses any act undertaken for the well being of the church as a whole. The dirt passed on to me by staff members who were active (not disgruntled ex-employees) that revealed day to day structural corruption and negligence would shock the hell out of most folks…but hey…religions are sacrosanct in this country…so I guess if they want to kill people thru neglect and incompetence…thats okay.