McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 27, 2012

Narconon Arrowhead faces fourth lawsuit this year

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A lawsuit was filed Monday against Narconon Arrowhead by a man who suffered from the same disease as a woman who was found dead at the facility earlier this year.

The lawsuit was filed in Pittsburg County District Court by 21-year-old William Scott. According to the suit, Scott is a former patient of the facility with medical condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, a condition that requires daily medication which the facility failed to give him.

The condition is the same as that of 21-year-old Hillary Holten who was found dead at the facility in April. Her autopsy reported the cause of her death as unknown and the manner of death is undetermined.
The flagship branch of an international drug rehab program located in Canadian, Narconon Arrowhead’s program is based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Scott’s lawsuit states that Scientology founder Hubbard had “no known training or education in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation.”
The suit is the latest in a string of lawsuits filed this year and an ongoing investigation into the Scientology based facility after three people were found dead in a span of nine months.
 Gabriel Graves, Hillary Holten and Stacy Murphy were all found dead at the facility between Oct. of 2011 and July of 2012.
A fourth person, Kaycie Werninck, also died in 2009. while a patient of the facility. 
 In August, a lawsuit was filed by Matthew and Suzan Holten, the parents of Hillary Holten, alleging Narconon did not provide adequate medical care for their daughter and that she died as a result of Narconon’s negligence.
In October another lawsuit was filed by the parents of Stacy Murphy who was found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in July.
Robert Murphy and Tonya White, parents of 20-year-old Stacy Murphy of Owasso, filed the lawsuit seeking damages in excess of $75,0000 against Narconon International, the Association for Better Living and Education International and Dr. Gerald Wootan. 
Also in October, the Shirley Gillaim mother of Gabriel Graves filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging that her son “repeatedly evidenced symptoms of feeling ill, headaches and vomiting,” but was never referred to a physician.
The suit states that Gabriel Graves was found dead the day after he complained of a terrible headache following sauna treatments. In 2009 Keith and Connie Werninck, the parents of Kaysie Werninck, filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit alleging their daughter “died of double pneumonia due to gross negligence on the part of Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma staff, who failed to get her the medical attention she needed and asked for but was prevented from receiving by Narconon” She died at Community Hospital Lakeview, in Eufaula, The case was settled in 2011.
Meanwhile in the lawsuit filed Monday alleges that during the 18 days that Scott was a patient of Narconon Arrowhead, he was not provided his prescribed medication causing him to be “rushed to the hospital on three separate occasions, twice by ambulance.”
Scott is seeking more than $75,000 in damages according the lawsuit which alleges negligence, violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, vicarious liability and civil conspiracy.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Narconon of Oklahoma doing business as Narconon Arrowhead, an Oklahoma corporation; Narconon International, a foreign corporation based in California; Association for Better Living and Education International, a foreign corporation based in California; and Gerald D. Wootan, DO, M.Ed., medical director of Narconon of Oklahoma.
Shanna Marlow, Scott’s mother said she was disappointed with the care he received.
“I was told he would be able to take his medication,” Marlow said. 
She said that Narconon denied that he was hospitalized medical condition.
“They told me he was hospitalized because of opiate withdrawal.”
Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith answered questions by the News-Capital in response to the lawsuit. When asked if it is common for patients going through withdraw from opiates have to be admitted to the emergency room and if Narconon allows its students to take prescribed medication while they are undergoing detox or  anytime while they are under the care of the facility, Smith said in the email statement;
“The medical care and supervision offered at Narconon Arrowhead is in compliance with all state requirements that govern the level of care Narconon Arrowhead has been authorized by the state to offer. Since Narconon is not a hospital or acute care facility if that level of care becomes necessary for one of our clients an appropriate referral made. When a program participant requires medication for a medical condition that complies with Narconon’s enrollment criteria they are always included as part of the individuals treatment plan.”
Also in an emailed statement from Smith he addressed the lawsuits filed against  Narconon Arrowhead he wrote, “In this great nation of ours people bringing law suits seeking money damages are free to make whatever allegations they wish and those are very often not true. In fact more times than not when relevant records and documentation are reviewed in a court of law the actual facts of the case will trump the allegations that are being made. Narconon fully intends to aggressively defend these claims in the courts and let the facts speak for themselves. We cannot be more specific at this time because we believe the appropriate place to address these types of allegations are in a court of law and not the media.”
A decision on whether or not criminal charges will be filed in the deaths at  Narconon Arrowhead could be expected this week, according to District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.