St. Petersburg Times
March 19, 1997

The truth in the McPherson case Re: Five doctors agree with examiner in Scientology death, March 9.

A great deal of false information has been circulated by the media concerning the Lisa McPherson case, the most recent of which appeared in the Times with quotes from medical experts purportedly in support of the allegations made by the Pinellas/Pasco medical examiner, Dr. Joan Wood. But as with much else in this case, the truth was not made known, and a false picture was painted to fool the readers of the Times.

Since this tragedy first unfolded, we have been on a mission to find the truth and make it known. We don't know all the answers, but we do know the speculation and innuendo that are not true.

We do not know why Lisa McPherson died other than the fact she suffered a pulmonary embolism. Determining what happened is the job of the medical examiner. Yet the autopsy was completed and the body released for cremation 14 months ago - the answers should have been forthcoming long before now.

Dr. Wood resorted to tabloid TV shows to level unsupported accusations about what happened. Yet Dr. Wood did not perform the autopsy herself; she merely filled out the report. That was last year. Now she has claimed other "facts" to exist which were not only untrue, they were not in her own report.

Yet when we asked to see her records, our request was denied. Wanting the truth, we went to court to open her files.

Dr. Wood resisted. But much more surprisingly, she retained lawyers George Rahdert and Pat Anderson to represent her in her effort to keep her files from public view. Rahdert and Anderson are the attorneys who have made a name for themselves representing the Times in its numerous efforts to open public files. When did these lawyers' First Amendment-free speech-public access sensibilities turn 180 degrees? And why is the Times supporting this effort to withhold the facts while running stories that contain lies in their place?

Now the Times has resorted to an overt effort not only to defend Dr. Wood's unsupported statements, it has actively manufactured allegations to prolong the investigation and promote the persecution of innocent Scientologists. The Times contacted five medical experts and used quotes from them apparently to "support" Dr. Wood's conclusions. But the experts were provided with incomplete information and hypotheticals -- not the facts. And their responses were twisted into a story that contained a completely false premise. Even worse, the story claimed that "the Scientologists" had said certain things that had never been said and then attempted to debunk these statements -- that the church had never said -- to say that the church was wrong.

We contacted several of those same experts and others at random from around the country. And here is the real story.

The experts stressed that it is unreliable to draw any conclusions without having all the records available.

All of the medical experts said that there was no basis for Dr. Wood's allegation that Lisa McPherson was ever in a coma. The experts concluded that there was nothing anatomically which allows for that conclusion and no basis for reaching such a conclusion from the autopsy.

All said there was no basis for alleging that Lisa McPherson was without food and liquid for 17, 10 or even five days, and that you "couldn't do that" from the information contained in the autopsy.

They also said that some of the reported test results appeared unreliable and would require further tests and confirmation before they could be relied upon.

In fact, when told of the allegations of Dr. Wood based on the records she has released, one characterized them as "surmises" and not fact.

These pathologists do not support the allegations of Dr. Wood. Like the circumstances of this woman's death, medical experts, too, have been exploited by the Times.

Those who didn't care for Lisa when she was alive continue to demonstrate the same callousness even after her death. Her name is being dragged through the mud because some in the medical examiner's office, the Clearwater Police Department and media want to use her tragic death as a vehicle to forward an agenda of hate.

The investigation was reportedly closed except for the final report from the medical examiner's office last May. Now, after 14 months, it is time to bring to justice those officials and reporters in collusion to waste huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to destroy a group that is bringing law and order and clean-living family values to Clearwater, America and the world.

-- Elliot Abelson, general counsel,
Church of Scientology International, Tampa

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