Is Scientology-Based Rehab Really Letting People Die?
Since 2005, nine people have died at the Narconon Arrowhead center in Oklahoma, and three of them have been in the last year. The rehab center helps clients through withdrawal according to the “Purification Rundown” procedure developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. This is a scientifically-challenged, non-medical approach to detoxification, and the entire rehabilitation process has been widely criticized for indoctrinating individuals into Scientology. The three recent deaths at the premier Narconon center have spawned an investigation and a spate of lawsuits, and the results may spell doom for the unproven and ineffective school of rehabilitation.
The Recent Deaths
The first of the recent run of deaths occurred on October the 26th, 2011. Gabriel Graves from Claremore, Oklahoma died at the facility, and the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear. His autopsy report lists his cause of death as “undetermined” and “unknown,” but a resident at the time said that a nurse insinuated that it may have been a drug overdose. This statement was taken from a complaint letter recovered as evidence, and the individual’s name has been removed. However, this same letter claims that drug use and their distribution by both students and staff at the center was “rampant.”
On April the 11th, 2012, Hillary Holten (Carrolton, Texas) was found dead at the center. Her autopsy report is yet to be completed, but the Dallas Morning News reported that she died from complications resulting from pneumonia and a congenital adrenal hyperplasia. She needed daily medication for her congenital condition, and her parents have sued the center, alleging that they were unaware of the severity of the issue. The accusation that they might not have sufficient training appears fair, because it’s been widely noted that the staff is primarily made up of ex-patients. It’s also been reported that medical staff can be available as little as once per week.
The most recent death, on July 19th, 2012, was of Stacy Murphy, from Owasso, Oklahoma. She’d been allowed out on day release, despite allegedly not meeting the criteria, and then returned high on opiates. Staff took her to the withdrawal unit of the center, but then the situation got worse. A resident at the time told the Village Voice that the medication required to save her life was either not available or none of the staff knew how to administer them.
Are They Really to Blame?
Although the results of the investigations are yet to arise, it seems that something is seriously wrong at Narconon. Before you even consider the practical issues raised by the deaths, the pseudo-scientific basis of the program presents some issues. Addiction often puts the individual at serious physical risk, and entrusting care to a group who operates under absurd principles is always going to be risky. The Purification Rundown works under the wholly incorrect assumption that drugs are stored in the fat cells for several years, and that excessive sweating and goliath doses of vitamins can help to get them out. The scientific criticisms of this are numerous; so much so that going into them here would be a colossal tangent. The overall point is that there is no legitimate reason to believe that it is an effective method of detoxification.
The program has been widely called a method of indoctrination into Scientology, and the fact that the majority of staff members are ex-clients attests to this. If we accept this for the purposes of this argument, it makes sense to assume that given the wholly unscientific basis of the treatment, the main purpose of Narconon is to create new Scientologists. This explains why there is reportedly no form of counseling provided, and why staff might not even be trained to deal with basic medical emergencies.
Although they never claim to be a medical treatment center, they do appear to have told Hillary Holten’s parents, for instance, that they were capable of dealing with a medical condition. Because they want people to come to treatment, it seems like the staff do their best to assure clients that everything is taken care of. The father of Stacy Murphy echoed that they had put their faith in the center. Narconon make assurances to get people through the door, but then their non-medical status shows through. Without adequate support, relapse is rife and medical emergencies are allowed to spiral out of control. It’s hinted that Hillary Holten may have died because they didn’t give her the pills she needed, and they couldn’t deal with Murphy’s overdose. They are quacks, dressed up as reliable, respectable professionals.
From the reports circling thus far, it seems that the serious nature of drug addiction is too much for Scientology’s theories to help. Medicine and psychology do a pretty good job of treating addiction, keeping people alive and helping them get clean. Narconon throws all this out of the window, claiming that an ineffective treatment regime conducted by helpless staff is all you need to overcome addiction. It’s time to start treating addiction seriously and stop it from becoming a propagandists’ playground. The deaths at Narconon Arrowhead will not be forgotten, and the country awaits the results of the inquiry.