Suit Against Church of Scientology Settled

Reuters/May 29, 2004

Clearwater, Fla. -- The Church of Scientology has settled a civil wrongful death law suit against it by the estate of a female member, a church spokesman said on Saturday. The terms were not disclosed.

"There is a settlement. The terms are confidential," Church of Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said on the telephone. He added the church had no other comment on the case.

Lisa McPherson, 36, died in 1995 after she had been in the care of church members at Scientology headquarters in Clearwater for 17 days.

McPherson, a Scientologist, had been involved in a minor traffic accident in Clearwater but was unhurt. After the accident, however, she took her clothes off and asked paramedics for help.

She was taken to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation but left later that day with Scientology members who said they would care for her. Scientologists oppose psychiatric treatment.

In 1998, Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe filed criminal charges against the church for practicing medicine without a license and abusing a disabled adult. No individuals were charged.

According to an affidavit from an investigator working for McCabe, McPherson was suffering from severe dehydration when she died.

The charges were dropped in 2000 after the county medical examiner changed her finding in the cause of McPherson's death from "undetermined" to "accidental."

The civil suit was filed in 1997 on behalf of McPherson's estate but never went to trial.

Lawyers for the church and the estate had been negotiating for several months on a settlement.

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