This list of deaths related to Scientology covers deaths described in secondary sources as related to the Church of Scientology or one of its affiliate organizations.

The 1995 death of Lisa McPherson is one of the most controversial of these. McPherson died under the care of Scientologists in Clearwater, Florida, after being released from a hospital because the Scientologists objected to the possibility that she would receive a psychiatric evaluation. In a 1997 article for the St. Petersburg Times, an investigative journalist analyzed a series of controversial deaths relating to Scientology, and the paper published an editorial saying that law enforcement had not thoroughly investigated these suspicious deaths.

In November 2009, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon criticized Scientology, including the handling of information by the organization relating to suspicious deaths of its members. The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, commented that Senator Xenophon had raised serious concerns. In May 2010, the Australian Senate opened an inquiry into the status of Scientology and other tax exempt groups in the country, prompted by concerns of abuse within the organization.


One of the most noteworthy cases of Scientology-related deaths is that of Lisa McPherson in 1995.[1][2][3] McPherson was a Scientologist who was found naked in Florida, and mentally distressed.[1][2][3] She requested help after a relatively non-serious vehicle accident.[1][2][3] McPherson was taken to the hospital; she died two weeks after being discharged into the care of Scientologists who did not want her to receive a psychiatric evaluation.[1][2][3]

The issue of controversial deaths related to Scientology was analyzed by investigative journalist Lucy Morgan, in a 1997 article for the St. Petersburg Times titled: "For some Scientologists, Pilgrimage has been Fatal".[1][4] An editorial by the St. Petersburg Times commented, "By their own admission, law enforcement authorities did not investigate the suspicious deaths of members of the Church of Scientology as thoroughly as they might have. ... A disturbing pattern now has been established of apparently healthy Scientologists who die suddenly after arriving in Clearwater for training or counseling. An investigation by the Times' Lucy Morgan found at least eight Scientology members, including McPherson, have died under circumstances that are not easily explained."[5] The piece concluded, "In hindsight, the deaths of Scientologists were not as aggressively investigated as they should have been. ... This community cannot shrug its shoulders and accept Scientology's unchallenged explanations every time a Scientologist turns up dead."[5] In an article for the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, Michael Browne of the Indiana University School of Law recommended the St. Petersburg Times article, "For another discussion of the McPherson case and other cases in which people drawn to Clearwater, Florida (site of a major Scientology center) by their involvement in the Church have turned up dead, allegedly under suspicious circumstances".[1]

In November 2009, the matter of how Scientology management handles controversial deaths of its members was brought to the forefront, in a speech in the Australian Senate by Senator Nick Xenophon.[6] Senator Xenophon stated, "It is alleged that information about suspicious deaths and child abuse has been destroyed, and one follower has admitted he was coerced by the organisation into perjuring himself during investigations into the deaths of his two daughters."[7] The Church of Scientology released a prepared statement calling Senator Xenophon's speech an "outrageous abuse of parliamentary privilege".[8] The Church of Scientology asserted, "Senator Xenophon is obviously being pressured by disgruntled former members who use hate speech and distorted accounts of their experiences in the church".[9] The Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, described the issues raised by Senator Xenophon as "grave allegations".[10] The Prime Minister commented, "Many people in Australia have real concerns about Scientology. I share some of those concerns. Let us proceed carefully and look carefully at the material he has provided before we make a decision on further parliamentary action."[11] In May 2010, subsequent to the concerns raised by Senator Xenophon about abuse within the Church of Scientology, the Australian Senate agreed to open an investigation into the tax exempt status of religions and charities in the country.[12]


Year Name Location Notes
1980 Havenith, Josephus A.Josephus A. Havenith Clearwater, Florida Found dead at the Fort Harrison Hotel in February 1980. He was found in a bathtub filled with water hot enough to have burned his skin off.[4] The official cause of death was drowning, although coroner noted that his head was not submerged.[4][13]
1987 Vitkovic, FrankFrank Vitkovic Queen Street, Melbourne, Australia Frank Vitkovic opened fire in a business building in Melbourne, Australia, killing 8 people and wounding five others before he plunged to his death trying to escape.[14] Two months prior to the attacks he had taken a personality test offered by the Church of Scientology,[15][16] which the volunteer read as indicating that he was extremely depressed. This was the second worst test result the Scientology volunteer had ever seen.[17] It was later presented during the inquest that while the organization had found him to be depressed, they did not take the appropriate measures with that information which could have prevented the massacre, and that the test possibly contributed to Vitkovic's mental state at the time of the shootings.[18]
1988 Pfaff, HeribertHeribert Pfaff Clearwater, Florida Died of a seizure in the Fort Harrison Hotel.[4] He had recently stopped taking his seizure medication in favour of a vitamin program.[13][19]
1990 Lottick, NoahNoah Lottick New York City, New York Committed suicide on May 11, 1990 by jumping from a 10th-floor hotel window, clutching his only remaining money in his hands.[20] After his death, a controversy arose revolving around his parents' concern over his membership in the Church of Scientology.[20] Lottick's suicide was profiled in the Time cover story that was highly critical of Scientology, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power," which received the Gerald Loeb Award, the Worth Bingham Prize, and the Conscience in Media Award.[21]
1995 McPherson, LisaLisa McPherson Clearwater, Florida Died after spending 17 days in room 174,[22] of the Fort Harrison.[23] The official cause of death at the time was a blood clot caused by dehydration and bedrest, although this was later challenged in court.[24][25] In 1997 an official church spokesman stated that Lisa McPherson died at the Fort Harrison, rather than on the way to the hospital. This was later retracted.[26]
1998 Gale, PhilipPhilip Gale Cambridge, Massachusetts Gale chose Friday, the thirteenth of March (Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's birthday) as the day he wanted to commit suicide,[27] falling to his death from a classroom window on the fifteenth floor of a building on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus.[28] Several years earlier, he had left Scientology after deciding it was not for him, becoming enamored of the postmodern parody religion Church of the SubGenius.[29]
2000 Meyer, StacyStacy Meyer Riverside County, California Died from electrocution in an underground electrical transformer vault on the grounds of Scientology's "Gold Base" located at Gilman Hot Springs, California.[30] The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the incident, particularly issues including training of individuals entering the area in question, potential training or lack thereof of Meyer herself, and posting of proper signs warning of high voltage.[31]
2003 Perkins, ElliElli Perkins Buffalo, New York Perkins was murdered by her son, who had mental health problems; she had sought out alternatives to psychiatry due to Scientology's opposition to psychiatric methodology.[32] Her death was profiled on the CBS News 48 Hours program, titled: "Scientology - A Question of Faith".[32][33]
2007 Walicki, Michael, Kathryn, and SueMichael, Kathryn, and Sue Walicki Revesby, New South Wales Australia On July 5, 2007, Linda Walicki fatally stabbed her father and sister, and seriously wounded her mother.[34] The cause of the attack was later determined to be a psychotic episode after her parents, who were both Scientologists, convinced her to replace her prescribed anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication with vitamins obtained from the United States due to their religious beliefs.[35] While they relented three weeks prior to the killings and reintroduced her to the prescription medication, the lapse in medication is believed to have caused the psychotic episode.[35][36] On July 30, 2008, Linda was declared not guilty by reasons of insanity.[37]
2008 Ballo, Kaja BordevichKaja Bordevich Ballo Nice, France Committed suicide after taking the Oxford Capacity Analysis run by the Church of Scientology.[38] She was the daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, a member of the Norwegian Parliament.[39]

See also[]

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32x28px Psychology portal
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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Browne, Michael (1998). "Should Germany Stop Worrying and Love the Octopus? Freedom of Religion and the Church of Scientology in Germany and the United States". Indiana International & Comparative Law Review (Indiana University) 9 (1): 155–202. 
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