Thursday 27 June 2013

Dutch put Narconon on Warning

Dutch officials have put Narconon on warning that they are under “enhanced supervision” – and could even face closure – after spot checks raised concerns about patient safety.1

Narconon: put
on warning
Dutch health officials have put Narconon under six months of special monitoring because of concerns about patient safety, warning them they could face closure if they fail to make improvements.

The Heath Care Inspectorate (IGZ) announced its decision in a statement posted on its website Monday, after a series of spot checks on Narconon's operation raised the alarm.

Two unannounced visits early this year by the officers from the Health Care Inspectorate (IGZ) turned up deficiences that a subsequent inspection in May revealed had not been corrected.

So the IGZ has imposed the following restrictions:

  • Six months of supervision, which may be extended;
  • a ban on admitting drug addicts and people with serious psychological and psychiatric problems;
  • all new admissions must first be examined by a doctor (and Narconon has to provide documentation to that effect)

Earlier this week, the Inspectorate posted a copy of a letter it wrote on May 24 to the director of Narconon Netherlands, Joanna Kluessien, in which it set out these restrictions.

The one-month delay in making this decision public was because Narconon had tried to block its publication, as the letter itself makes clear.

The supervision ruling and the restrictions that go with it were made after surprise inspections in February and March of this year, at the Narconon centre in Zutphen, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) northeast of Arnhem.

These inspections had themselves been prompted by anonymous complaints about Narconon which the Inspectorate had received in the previous year.

After its first two inspections, the IGZ drew up a list of changes it wanted made and delivered its report to Narconon in April. The release does not make it clear, but these appear to have involved restrictions on the kind of work Narconon is permitted to do.

The IGZ carried out a third surprise inspection on May 16 to see if Narconon was respecting the terms it had imposed: and concluded that it was not.

As the inspector's letter noted, Narconon tried to defend its position in a response sent on May 21.

Narconon's understanding of the restrictions placed on them in the April report had been that they could not treat patients suffering from physical withdrawal symptoms.

There was a disagreement over a patient admitted on May 15 suffering from a cocaine addiction.

Narconon did not think that someone who had recently been taking the drug qualified as the kind of patient they were not allowed to treat because – according to them – cocaine addiction did not involve physical withdrawal symptoms.

The letter also seems to suggest that Narconon has been ordered to hand in its WTZi certification: its authorisation to function as a care institution offering services covered by Dutch health insurance. Narconon had not been quick enough complying with the agency's instructions, said the IGZ letter.

With its accreditation pulled, it can no longer receive health insurance payments for the services it offers.2

The IGZ said that it was imposing the six-month period of enhanced surveillance in part because of the results of the May 16 inspection, which had revealed Narconon's failure to respect the restrictions imposed earlier.

As the IGZ press release put it, they had doubts about the “willingness and ability” of Narconon to comply with the terms it had set out.

The more intense supervision, again using spot checks rather than preplanned visits, is to ensure that this time, Narconon does as it is told.

But in its letter to Narconon the Inspectorate made it clear that if the situation did not improve in the coming months it would consider recommending its closure to the Health Minister Edith Schippers.

If there are still dangers for the health of your patients during or after the period of six months, than the Inspectorate will consider advising the Minister to issue an instructive measure or another corrective action available under the Health Institutions Quality Act.

In this context, that could very well mean closing Narconon down in the Netherlands.

Dutch Suppressive Guy

One of those who contacted the IGZ to express concern about Narconon's operation in the Netherlands was someone who we'll call Dutch Suppressive Guy.

DSG has posted anonymously on some of the message boards and follows developments closely.

He has put together a Dutch-language website – and the title alone suggests he does not mince his words: Scam of Scientology: een portret van een waardeloze organisatie (portrait of a worthless organisation).

In 2012 and 2013, DSG made six complaints about Narconon to the Dutch regulatory authorities, complete with a substantial amount of supporting material.

He has been good enough to forward them to Infinite Complacency and among the issues he raised, were the following:

  • Narconon's relationship with Scientology

As I have argued elsewhere on this site, Narconon does not just have a relationship to Scientology, it is entirely subordinate to the movement and used both as a source of income and of recruits.3

  • the dangerously large doses of Niacin (AKA Vitamin B3, Nicotinic Acid) used at Narconon “New Life Detoxification Program”

Narconon's detox programme is no more than the secular version of Scientology's Purification Rundown, developed by the movement's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

When Scientology runs the Rundown, they describe it simply as a process of spiritual cleansing; when Narconon runs the Detox however, they say it is a process that has proven therapeutic benefits.

The dangers of taking such massive doses of Niacin were spelled out at the 2009 fraud trial of Scientology in Paris, where several defendants were convicted for the illegal practice of pharmacy.

Olivier Saumon, lawyer for France's Order of Pharmacists, plaintiffs in the case, pointed out in his summing up that the maximum recommended dose of niacin, was 54 mg: yet Hubbard had recommended taking between 100 and 5,000 mg a day during the Rundown.

He noted too that Scientologists interpreted the dangerous side effects described by the court-appointed experts as evidence that the process was working.

“Sometimes the symptoms created – in particular by niacin – are seen as being beneficial rather than considered as being one of the dangerous effects of niacin,” he observed.

Such thinking of course, has its roots in Hubbard's insistence that “the way out is the way through” and that participants should stick with the process no matter how hard it gets.4

  • The closure of a Narconon centre in Canada and the deaths in several US centres

DSG provided information on the closure of Trois-Rivières Narcon in Quebec, Canada after a campaign by former patient-turned-staff-member David Love.

He also informed them of the deaths at Narconon Oklahoma in the United States.

And in a later communication, DSG updated them about the sanctions handed out to Narconon Georgia for their obstruction and deceit as they tried to fend off a wrongful death lawsuit over the death of Patrick Desmond.

As reported by Tony Ortega at The Underground BunkerJudge Stacey Hydrick sanctioned them for “...repeatedly and wilfully obstructed the discovery process both by failures to respond fully to legitimate discovery requests and, even more egregiously, by false responses”.5

DSG's point this time was that this kind of deception was not an isolated case in Scientology.

To illustrate his point he provided them with the killer quote from Hubbard: “THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters.”6

All of which leads us nicely to:

  • Inflated success claims of Narconon's efficacy

DSG pointed out that while Narconon International claimed a success rate of 75 percent, a 2008 Norwegian health ministry study had reached a different conclusion.

It stated:

There is currently no reliable evidence for the effectiveness of Narconon as a primary or secondary drug prevention program. To the extent our extensive database search could determine, no randomized controlled trials about the program have been conducted...7

He also tipped them off to a leaked document from Narconon International's legal affairs officer Claudia Arcabascio, which Tony Ortega revealed earlier this year.

In it Arcabascio wrote that Narconon needed to drop the claim of a 70-percent success rate as “we do not have scientific evidence of it”.

As Ortega put it in his report: “As smoking guns go, this one is high caliber and billowing.”

In fact, Arcabascio got her figures wrong. Narconon is claiming not 70 percent, but a 75-percent success rate – and while it may not be on the front page, it is still posted at their site.

It was at about this point – April 2013 – that DSG suggested they should themselves be checking in at Tony Ortega's The Underground Bunker for regular exposés of Narconon's activities.

By now, as he confessed to Infinite Complacency, an exasperated tone was creeping into his correspondence because he did not think the Inspectorate was taking him seriously.8

What he did not know was that the wheels were already in motion: at the time he wrote his letter, in early April, the ISG had already made two surprise visits to Narconon.

Narconon on probation

From the details provided at the IGZ website, “enhanced supervision” appears to be moving towards the upper range of measures available to the agency. Here is how the IGZ explains it:

Enhanced supervision” is a more stringent corrective measure. The Inspectorate will impose corrective measures if there is a higher-than-average risk of failure to provide responsible care, provided that risk is not so great or immediate as to preclude the health care provider taking appropriate remedial action within a reasonable period.

The agency also says:

The inspectorate will usually impose enhanced supervision if an improvement plan has yielded insufficient results or if there is little confidence that the health care provider will be able to achieve the desired results otherwise.

This certainly appears to be what has happened here.

It is still not clear what aspects of Narconon's operations set off alarm bells at the agency. I have put in two requests for clarification to the Inspectorate but I am still waiting to hear back from them.

The IGZ's letter makes it clear it reserves the right to extend its surveillance and if necessary take the matter to the Dutch Health Minister, Edith Schippers with a view to harsher sanctions.

Narconon is on probation then.

The question is, can they actually clean up their act without abandoning Hubbard's system?
1  This piece is an extended version of the one published on June 26 at Tony Ortega's site The Underground Bunker.
2  But in any case, this would only apply to Dutch clients and some of their intake, perhaps even most of it, comes from abroad.
3  For more on Narconon's role inside the Scientology movement, see both “Narconon: an Introduction” and “Narconon is Casualty Contact” elsewhere on this site.
4  For more on this, with the relevant Hubbard references, see “...for the Pharmacists”, my account of Saumon's closing arguments in the 2009 Paris trial, elsewhere on this site. DSG even provided the inspectors with a link to my review of the original judgment in the case (confirmed on appeal). His point was that inspectors from France's health products watchdog the AFSSAPS had testified as expert witnesses as to the dangers of the Purification Rundown during the Paris trial.
5  See Tony Ortega's write-up at The Underground Bunker: “SHOCKER: Court Punishes Scientology For Acting Like…Scientology”. Of course anyone who has been following developments at The Underground Bunker will know that that is only the tip of the iceberg.
6  From Hubbard's “Technique 88” up at Dutch writer and campaigner Karin Spaink's website. Veterans of the Scientology beat will know that she fought a long, bruising, but ultimately successful legal battle from the mid-90s with Scientology over her summary of the movement's upper levels. My thanks to her for helping me with the Dutch texts cited in this article.
7  A brief summary and evaluation evidence base for Narconon prevention intervention, a 2008 report commissioned by the Norwegian Health Directorate. The quote is from page 16 of the document.
8  An additional complication, says DSG, was that he was not receiving regular updates from them as he had chosen to remain an anonymous complainant.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Tory 'Magoo' Christman's story

Scientology's insistence that Tory Christman give up her epilepsy medication almost killed her, she says.

Tory “Magoo” Christman has first-hand experience of Scientology's off-hand attitude to epilepsy: it almost killed her.
Tory 'Magoo' Christman

Soon after joining the movement in 1969 Christman – better known online as Tory Magoo – signed the billion-year contract to join its elite cadre the Sea Organization.1 The Sea Org is made up of Scientology's most dedicated – and most ruthlessly exploited – members.

At the time however, as she put it one 2001 Internet post, she felt she had finally found her place in life: she was convinced she was working to save the planet.2

A few months into her time there, she had to re-order the medication she needed to control her epilepsy. They sent her to the Medical Liaison Officer: the MLO.

“We are the top 10 percent of the planet we don't do medication...,” he told her.3

“This was a young man I was told was studying nutrition. He had no actual medical training that I knew of.

“He informed me that I needed to get off of my medication, and that he would write out a program to get off of it,” said Christman. That program largely involved taking large doses of vitamins combined with Dianetics auditing, the movement's version of talking therapy.

“In Scientology if you have any illness it is considered there is something wrong with you, not just physically, but that this is a very bad thing, caused by you being connected to someone who is suppressive to you.”4

Suppressives are enemies of Scientology – and Hubbard told his followers “... all illness in greater or lesser degree and all foul-ups stem directly and only from a PTS condition.”5

PTS stands for Potential Trouble Source. A PTS condition is when a Scientologist is in contact with someone the movement considers a Suppressive Person, an enemy of Scientology – such as a parent who thinks the movement is a cult.

So the message was that she did not need medication to handle her epilepsy: she just needed to get the suppressives out of her life.

Christman's mother was not a Scientologist – and when she found out her daughter was trying to get off her medication she urged her to reconsider.

“My Mother, bless her soul, kept insisting Dianetics WASN’T going to fix this, that these people were going to kill me and that I MUST get back on my medication,” she wrote in a 2007 post to her blog.6

There's your Suppressive right there, her handlers told her.

“Scientology showed me the Policy to 'prove' she was an SP, that the cause of epilepsy was my Mom....” she wrote.

Christman was told that she either had to handle her mother – keep her from becoming a problem – or disconnect, cut off all contact. All this was applied Scientology ethics, as per Hubbard's directives.7

Despite her mother's warnings, she went ahead with her withdrawal programme, as set out by her Scientology Medical Liaison Officer.

“I began having Grand Mal seizures at home in the morning, out on the street by myself, and in the Scientology organizations. This was living Hell for me,” she recalled.

“This went on for I think three months. I was losing my short-memory due to all of the seizures. I would wake up in the morning and try to dash into the refrigerator.

“Daily I would have a petit mal (small seizure), and come to with all of the vitamins spread out all over the kitchen floor.”8

During this time, her fellow Scientologists treated her like a leper, she recalled.

Epilepsy was 'her fault'

So far as they were concerned, it was her fault: she was creating the seizures, they told her.

All she had to do, they said, was get off her medication take the massive doses of vitamins and minerals they recommended and the Scientology auditing – and she would be fine.9

“As I got worse and worse, being found on the floor in their 'Churches' – out in the street unconscious … they continued to insist I needed to 'handle this' take responsibility for it.”

For Magoo, the implication was clear: that if she could not resolve the problem, then basically she was a degraded being – which in Scientology is barely a step up from a suppressive.10

“Finally one morning in the shower I knocked my front teeth out during a Grand Mal seizure,” she recalled.

But it was another incident that finally persuaded her mother to lay down the law.

“My Mom called me daily. I told her I was going out on a date that night. The next day she called and asked: 'How was your date?' I said: 'What date?'

“My Mom then said: 'Ok THAT'S IT! Either you are back on your medication TODAY and your Doctor calls me TODAY saying you are back on your medication, or I am going to fly from Chicago out to LA. And Trust me, L Ron Hubbard and Scientology will NEVER forget your Mother'.”11

That did the trick.

“I realized no matter what these people thought, I wasn't going to live if I kept doing this. At that point I decided to go back on my medication in full, no matter what.”12

As a result, she was routed out of the Sea Org.

Despite her experience – and despite having to fight to stop them landing her with a freeloader's bill for the free services she had supposedly received while in the Sea Org – she kept faith with Scientology.

Having written directly directly to Hubbard, she got a letter back that suggested she just needed to keep auditing to solve her problem.

That letter, which she believed at the time really had come from Hubbard, was what kept her in Scientology for the next 30 years, she said.

“THAT made me believe the 'OT' levels MUST eventually help me handle Epilepsy, (which they never did.),” she added.13

Christman admits to having been a bit bemused when she was declared Clear.

A Clear is supposed to be someone who operates at “total mental capacity” wrote Hubbard: a Clear has “complete recall of everything which has ever happened to him or anything he has ever studied.”14

A Clear is also meant to be free of psychosomatic illnesses – which according to Hubbard, covered epilepsy.15 So she found it strange that she could have qualified.

“From the all the seizures, I now had horrible memory, and of course still had Epilepsy...,” she wrote.

“It wasn't just my memory that made me feel NOT Clear. Hubbard originally said a 'Clear has no somatics, no pains, a Perfect IQ and a perfect memory.' So Epilepsy was the KEY reason I felt I could not be Clear.”16

It was only later, after she had left Scientology, that she came to realize that there was no such thing as a Clear.

Why OT 3 made sense

Her new status inside Scientology meant she was eligible to make a start on the much-vaunted – and extremely expensive – Operating Thetan or OT levels. These are the secret, upper levels of Scientology that many members believe confer special powers on initiates.

At the time, Christman thought she was getting something positive out of OT 3, the much-vaunted – and much-lampooned – document in which Hubbard reveals the real reason our spiritual path is blocked.

Briefly, Hubbard told his followers that millions of years ago an evil galactic overlord trapped the spirits – or thetans – of millions of people (in volcanos), and that this is the root cause of our problems today.

“One's body is a mass of individual thetans stuck to oneself or to the body,” wrote Hubbard – and you need to rid yourself of those thetans to reacquire the powers that we all once had but lost.17

Scientology's upper levels then, as several former members have pointed out, is nothing more than a form of exorcism of these Body Thetans.

Christman acknowledges in her 2001 declaration: “To the average person this may seem like a huge leap, but in Scientology you are sort of taught or brought along early on to make these leaps.”

Hubbard's claim that he had very nearly died while researching the secrets of OT III had a special resonance for her: she knew what that felt like.

“...[F]or me a Grand Mal seizure felt like I had died. When I would return, I would have absolutely no memory of anything, and I had often wondered if I had sort of died, and then returned.

“Now I am reading the OT 3 info, and Hubbard mentioned while getting close to these incidents, HE NEARLY DIED!!”

For Magoo, everything suddenly seemed to fit.

“I realized why I had this horrible thing called Epilepsy! It wasn't just some physical condition as the doctors had tried to tell me early on. It was due to these things called Body Thetans...

“This was an amazing revelation for me and excited me greatly.

“If you have ever seen a Grand Mal Seizure you are familiar with their overwhelming power and uncontrollability.

“The force was amazing to me and I used to wonder all the time, what could POSSIBLY have caused all of this? Suddenly I had what I thought was the true answer!”

“So even though OT 3 is completely weird and a space opera story... I was so ready for ANYTHING, that this filled the bill. If it nearly killed Hubbard, the master of all everything, why not give me Epilepsy?”

For some Scientologists, the space opera cosmology is the beginning of the end of their belief in Scientology; but for Christman, because of her personal medical history, OT 3 made perfect sense – at least, at the time it did.

But her hopes that it would cure her of her fits were quickly dashed.

“After attesting to OT 3, I once again tried to get off of my medication, only to end up in a hospital with status epilepticus...” which is to say, multiple or extended seizures.

“You nearly died,” they told her at the hospital.18

Lucky to be alive

Despite this, her Scientology handlers still maintained they had the solution: “I was just told: 'You need OT 4 and OT 5 – that will handle it for sure'.”19

She went back on her medication and stayed on it – and she has never had a seizure since.

But she stayed on in Scientology for many years afterwards: she still believed that, somewhere down the line, Scientology could fix it.

“Scientology now has numerous signs all over their Churches stating Scientology does not cure people and IF you have a medical problem, to go see a Doctor.”

The movement's critics however argue that this is one of Hubbard's “acceptable truths” presented for legal purposes.20 The tech – Hubbard's writings – has not changed: and the tech says they can handle conditions such as epilepsy.

“[I]n truth they were still implying that all I needed was 'The next level' to finally 'handle' (their word for get rid of) Epilepsy.

Christman spent years auditing on OT 7, the second-highest of the OT levels, in a vain bid to rid herself of epilepsy. But she never did find the body thetan that was harbouring her epilepsy.

Finally she realized it was a fraud.21

“I have been free ever since. However I continue to speak out in hopes ANYONE with any physical problems stay miles and miles away from Scientology.”

She now realizes she was lucky to escape Scientology with her life: her increasingly severe seizures when she came off her medication could very well have killed her.

Not everyone has been as lucky, as she subsequently learned.

One incident, back in 1989, serves adespis a reminder of how her story might have ended had it not been for her mother's intervention.

In 1989, Christman tried to return to Clearwater, Florida for more auditing on the OT levels. But her entry was blocked and she had to fight hard to get that decision reversed.

It was only later she found what the problem had been: shortly before she tried to return, a Scientologist had died there – and he too, had been an epileptic.

That man was Heribert Pfaff, a German Scientologist, who died of an epileptic seizure on August 28, 1988.

His story deserves revisiting because of information that has emerged since the initial investigation of his death.
To see more of Tory Christman's story, visit her YouTube site here.

Articles in the Ignoring Epilepsy series:

  1. A Death in France” (Jocelyne Dorfmann's 1984 death at a Narconon Centre as she tried to come off her epilepsy medication)
  2. Hubbard on Epilepsy
  3. Tory 'Magoo' Christman's Story”
  4. The Death of Heribert Pfaff I”
  5. The Death of Heribert Pfaff II”

1 “Magoo” is the name she used to call her father, Paul Christman, she explains. “He had small eyes and a great sense of humor – like the character Mr. Magoo, so I called him 'Magoo'.” She felt the spirit of her late father was encouraging her to leave Scientology at a time when she had no one to talk to about it, she added. “I use the 'Magoo' name online as a constant reminder of his courage.”
Her YouTube site, ToryMagoo44, is another tribute to her father: when he played as a quarterback for the Chicago Cardinals football, 44 was his number.
2 This part of her story is from a January 2001 statement by Tory Christman, (revised February 2003).
3 This quote is from her Youtube posting: “My Sea Org Story and their Medical Abuse”.
4 From the 2001 statement.
5 From “PTS Handling”, HCO Policy Letter August 10, 1973, extracts from which you can find at this Scientology website.
6 “Have you been harmed by the Church of Scientology?” May 6, 2007 post at Tory Christman's Official Blog.
7 For more on Scientology's practice of disconnection, perhaps the single most destructive of Hubbard's policies, see “Introduction to Disconnection” and the piece that follows it, “The Hendersons' Story” elsewhere on this site.
8 From her 2001 statement.
9 This from her 2007 blog post.
10 In one policy letter, Hubbard wrote: “A degraded being is not a suppressive as he can have case gain. But he is so PTS that he works for suppressives only.” From “Admin Know-how: Alter-Is and Degraded Beings”, HCOPL, March 22, 1967. Presumably in Tory Christman's case, this meant she had been taken in by her suppressive mother's warnings.
11 From “Have you been harmed by the Church of Scientology?” May 6, 2007 post at Tory Christman's Official Blog, with additional information from an email exchange.
12 From her 2001 statement. It also helped that her mother handed her an ultimatum: either she got back on her medication or she would fly out to LA and make a lot of noise – including taking the story to the media. The final straw was when she told her mother one night she was going out on a date, then when her mother asked about it the following day, she had no recollection of it. Her latest fit and wiped her short-term memory clean. This anecdote is from her Youtube posting: “My Sea Org Story and their Medical Abuse
13 Personal communication.
14 “Total mental capacity...” is from “The Road to Clear”, HCO bulletin, April 1, 1965; “complete recall” is from Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, Book Three, Chapter Two, “Release or Clear”.
15 See “Hubbard on Epilepsy” at this site.
16 Personal communication.
17 From the text of Hubbard's OT III. You can find a useful summary and analysis at Dutch journalist Karin Spaink's website.
18 This from her 2001 declaration and from her Youtube posting: “My Sea Org Story and their Medical Abuse
19 Personal communication.
20 Hubbard once wrote: “Handling truth is a touchy business also... Tell an acceptable truth.” He put it even more bluntly in another internal document: “THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM.” For the documented sources and more along the same lines, see Lying as a Religious Rite by Ted Mayett and Keshet.
21 For the full story of how she came to quit Scientology, see Tony Ortega's landmark 2001 article for the Los Angeles New Times, “Sympathy for the Devil”.