Lisa McPherson (February 10, 1959 – December 5, 1995) was a member of the Church of Scientology who died of a pulmonary embolism while under the care of the Flag Service Organization (FSO), a branch of the Church of Scientology.[1] Following her death, the Church of Scientology was indicted on two felony charges, "abuse and/or neglect of a disabled adult" and "practicing medicine without a license."

The charges against the Church of Scientology were dropped after the state's medical examiner changed the cause of death from "undetermined" to an "accident" on June 13, 2000. A civil suit brought by her family against the Church was settled on May 28, 2004.[2]


In 1994, Lisa McPherson, who became a Scientology adherent at age 18,[3] moved to Clearwater, Florida. During June 1995, the church placed Lisa in an Introspection Rundown due to perceived mental instability. Lisa completed the rundown, and she attested to the state of Clear in September.[4]

On November 18 McPherson was involved in a minor car accident. Paramedics initially left her alone because she was ambulatory, but after she began to remove her clothes, the paramedics decided to take her to the hospital. At one point she remarked that she had taken off her clothes in hopes of obtaining counseling.[5] Hospital staff agreed that she was unharmed, but recommended keeping her overnight for observation. Following intervention by fellow Scientologists, McPherson refused psychiatric observation or admission at the hospital and checked herself out after a short evaluation.[6]

McPherson was then taken to the Flag Land Base for "rest and relaxation" according to the Church of Scientology,[7] but sworn statements demonstrate that McPherson was brought there for another Introspection Rundown.[8][9]

Mark McGarry, an attorney with the Florida Office of the State Attorney, characterized Lisa's stay at the FSO as an "isolation watch":[8]

The church accommodated McPherson in a cabana and kept a "24 hours watch" over her. Detailed logs were kept on McPherson’s day-to-day care. These logs were handwritten on plain white paper.[10] Most of these logs were kept but the logs for the last three days were summarized from the originals and the originals shredded.

McPherson’s "care logs" narrate the last 17 days of her life: McPherson was incoherent and sometimes violent, her nails were cut so she wouldn’t scratch herself or the staff, she bruised her fists and feet while hitting the wall. She had trouble sleeping and was being given natural supplements and the drug chloral hydrate to help her sleep. She looked sick and developed sores; "She looked ill like measles or chicken pox on her face." On repeated occasions she refused food and protein shakes that the staff offered. On the 26th, 30th, 3rd and 4th the staff attempted to force feed her, noting that she spat the food out. She was noted to be very weak, not standing up nor on some days moving at all.[10] Scientologists who questioned this handling were told to "butt out".[11]

On December 5, 1995, the Church staffers contacted David Minkoff, a Scientologist medical doctor who twice prescribed drugs (Valium and chloral hydrate) for McPherson without seeing her.[12] They requested for him to prescribe an antibiotic to McPherson because she seemed to have an infection. Minkoff refused and stated that McPherson should be taken to a hospital and he needed to see her before prescribing anything.[10] They objected, expressing fear that McPherson would be put under psychiatric care.[12] Janice Johnson stated that Lisa had been gasping and had labored breathing while en route. However they passed a total of four hospitals along the way to their ultimate destination. When they arrived at Minkoff's hospital 45 minutes north of Clearwater McPherson arrived without vital signs. They worked on her for about 20 minutes trying to resuscitate her, giving her CPR and antibiotics, but to no avail. She was then declared dead.[6][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Scientologists called McPherson’s family to say that she’d died of meningitis or a blood clot[20] on December 5, 1995 while at Fort Murray for “rest and relaxation”.[21] A suspicious death investigation began the next day and an autopsy was performed. A year later, in response to a Clearwater Police Department website request for information on her death, Clearwater media began speculating[22] about the causes of McPherson’s death.[23]

The controversy included regular pickets outside Scientology offices on or around the anniversary of her death.[24]

Coroner's initial reportEdit

On December 5, 1995 McPherson’s autopsy was accomplished by assistant medical examiner Robert Davis. Davis never completed McPherson’s autopsy report because he was asked to resign from his position.[25] The autopsy report was completed by his supervisor medical examiner Joan Wood.

The report identified the cause of death of Lisa McPherson as a Thrombo-embolism on the left pulmonary artery caused by "bed rest and severe dehydration" and the manner of death as "undetermined".[26] The report also identified multiple hematomas (bruises), an abrasion on the nose and lesions consistent with "insect/animal bites" in the right lower arm just above the wrist. [27] [28]

On January 21, 1997, Wood went public on the TV show Inside Edition and stated that the autopsy showed McPherson had deteriorated slowly, going without fluids for five to 10 days, was underweight, had cockroach bites and was comatose from 24 to 48 hours before she died.[29]

The Lisa McPherson ClauseEdit

The Church of Scientology now makes members sign a waiver specifically against suing the Church over the Introspection Rundown.[30]


  1. Tobin, Thomas C. (2000-02-23). "Church member's death now called accident", St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 14 September 2008. 
  2. Farley, Robert (2004-06-06). "Church settlement brings relief", St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 24 August 2008. 
  3. "Interview with Fannie McPherson". The Lisa McPherson Files (1996-04-12). Retrieved on 2009-02-11.
  4. Tobin, Thomas C. (2000-06-13). "State drops charges against Scientology", St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 14 September 2008. 
  5. Portlano, Bonnie. Interview with Kristin Jeannette-Meyers. CBS Public Eye. 1998-01-07.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Frantz, Douglas (1997-12-01). "Death of a Scientologist Heightens Suspicions in a Florida Town", New York Times, p. A16. Retrieved on 22 April 2007. 
  7. Scientology charged in member's death (Thomas C. Tobin, St. Petersburg Times, 14 Nov 1998
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lisa McPherson Files - Sworn Statement of Brian J.Anderson , pg 19
  9. Scientology charged in member's death (Thomas C. Tobin, St. Petersburg Times, 14 Nov 1998)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Affidavits & Documents | Lisa McPherson
  11. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named New_Tack
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tobin, Thomas C.; Ulferts, Alisa (2001-08-04). "Doctor in Lisa McPherson case suspended", St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on 22 April 2007. 
  13. Lisa McPherson Memorial Page: Killed by the Church of Scientology
  14. LISA (documentation of civil suit)
  15. "McPherson Case: "Scientologist's death now ruled accidental"". Press revue from the CESNUR. Associated Press and St. Petersburg Times (2000-02-23). Retrieved on 2006-10-07.
  16. Fort Harrison Hotel — Room 174: Death of scientologist Lisa McPherson (Why Are They Dead)
  17. The Clearwater Police Department Investigation into Lisa McPherson's Death
  18. State takes middle road against Scientology, Thomas C. Tobin, St. Petersburg Times, November 23, 1998
  19. When can a church be accused of a crime?, HOWARD TROXLER, St. Petersburg Times, December 8, 1999
  20. Plunkett, John (1996-12-22). "Scientologist's death: A family hunts for answers", The Tampa Tribune. Retrieved on 13 May 2007. 
  21. Tampabay: Scientology charged in member's death
  22. Mystery surrounds Scientologist's death
  23. Police: Clearwater police needs your help!
  24. Church loads up for one last fight, DEBORAH O'NEIL, St. Petersburg Times, December 1, 2001
  25. [] Website:, Crow Memo
  26. Web Site:, Coroner's Report
  27. [ Web site: Lisa McPherson: Coroner's Report transcript]
  28. Autopsy Photos - Lisa McPherson (Caution: Disturbing photos)
  29. [1] Website: , Inside Edition Transcript
  30. The Lisa McPherson Clause: Scientology Moving to Secure Its 'Right' to Kill Again

External linksEdit

de:Lisa McPherson es:Lisa McPherson fr:Lisa McPherson