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Lisa McPherson and the doctors: Hamstrung by the ‘spiritual’ needs of a thetan


Lisa McPherson’s first week under confinement at the Fort Harrison Hotel ended twenty years ago today.

On Saturday, November 25, 1995, Lisa was watched in her cabana room by caretakers named Heather Hoff and Rita Boykin. And they were also joined by a man named David Houghton.

Houghton was studying for his dentist board exam at the time. He would take his board exams in just a few days so that he could become the Flag Land Base in-house dentist. After finishing dental school, he had some knowledge of medicine in general, and on the evening of the 24th, he had a telephone discussion with a Scientologist doctor named David Minkoff about the woman who was being held in Room 174 because she had gone “Type III.”

They were aware that Lisa McPherson had been raving and had been violent with her caretakers, who had been with her 24 hours a day since she’d been brought to the hotel late on Saturday night the week before. They talked about how they might sedate Lisa, if that need arose. They decided that a liquid form of chloral hydrate would be best, but Houghton was unable to find any local pharmacies that carried it. So they talked again, and decided to get some liquid Valium to have on hand. They called in a prescription — not, apparently, in Lisa’s name — and Houghton went to pick it up that night and paid cash.


During the police investigation after Lisa’s death, Houghton was asked about the decision to pick up the Valium that night.

Q: All right. And when, if ever, was that Valium used on Lisa?

A: To my knowledge, it was never used.

Q: All right. And why is that?

A: Again, to my knowledge, Mr. Kartuzinski didn’t want her to have anything that heavy.

Q: And he was running the spiritual end of this.

A: Right.

Alain Kartuzinski was making the decisions about Lisa’s care, and he’d assigned a disgraced former anesthesiologist, Janis Johnson, to oversee that care. Kartuzinski had no medical training of his own.

Q: I find it very odd that — we’ll go back to the three doctors again — MD anesthesiologist [Johnson], a dentist [Houghton], and another MD in Florida [Minkoff] working in an emergency room and an infectious disease specialist, OK, and the three of these people, who are all medical people, put their heads together and they get liquid Valium, and they send a doctor to get the liquid Valium, and he pays for it out of his pocket, he brings it back to the hotel, and we’ve got a civilian, nonmedical person [Kartuzinski], who says, “Huh-uh. You ain’t giving it to her.”

A: It is what happened. I agree that does sound kind of strange.

Q. …Wouldn’t that give you the impression that this is the guy pulling the strings? If he can tell three doctors who’s already gone to all this trouble of getting the liquid Valium and carting it back and sending a doctor to get it with thirty dollars in his pocket, and they come back, and he pulls the plug on this thing, would that give you the impression he’s in charge?

A. Sure.

Q. Thank you.

A. I mean, he was definitely in charge of the spiritual side of it.

So, to review. On hand at the hotel there was a recently graduated but not yet licensed dentist, a former anesthesiologist who might have stopped practicing medicine in order not to be prosecuted for stealing drugs from a hospital to feed her habit but was still knowledgeable about medicines and treatments, and, at an area hospital but not on the premises, an actual ER doctor, all of whom were Scientologists. But they all deferred to the judgment of Alain Kartuzinski, whose only qualifications were that he was a senior case supervisor in charge of Lisa’s “spiritual” case.

Just so we’re clear.

On the afternoon of November 25, Houghton went to Room 174 on the suggestion of Kartuzinski, who wanted him to give Lisa some medications — aspirin and Benadryl — to make her drowsy and help her get some sleep.

“They were talking about wanting to get her to eat, drink, you know, that kind of thing, and I said, well, I can certainly get her to swallow something. That’s, you know…something I could do without getting bit or, you know, something like that,” Houghton testified, explaining that he’d pointed out how his skills as a dentist might come in handy.

He crushed the aspirin and took the Benadryl out of capsules and put it in some orange juice. He put the concoction in a large syringe with a curved plastic end big enough to allow the crushed aspirin to pass through. After getting Lisa down on her bed, he ran the liquid down the side of her tongue to the back of her throat.

“But then she got a taste of it, she really liked it. She just basically turned herself, got ahold of it, and started sucking this thing down,” Houghton testified. “She obviously enjoyed the taste.”

Houghton waited around for an hour to see what effect the drugs had. Lisa continued to walk around the room, talking incoherently like she had been all week. But then she did seem to get drowsy, and laid down on the bed.

His work done, Houghton left.


Jacobsen: Belgian prosecutor asks for dissolution of Scientology

This just in from our man in Brussels, Jonny Jacobsen…



Yarramalong wins again against Scientology’s rehab plans

Bryan Seymour tells us he’s hoping to get a story out on this soon, so we’ll let him get into the details. But it looks like Scientology’s front group ABLE has lost its appeal in New South Wales of a local council’s decision not to grant a Narconon the zoning it needs to build a new 20-bed drug rehab facility there.

Once again, David Miscavige’s plans for Narconon 2.0 take a hit from determined locals.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Whale watching on the Freewinds — Matt Feshbach (top photo) and Jim Mathers get love-bombed!




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 25, 2015 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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