McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 8, 2012

Lawsuit: "Narconon operates a dangerous, unsafe and unsupervised drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.”

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — The parents of a patient  found dead at Narconon Arrowhead this summer have  filed a lawsuit against the facility and its medical director alleging  “Narconon’s actions were grossly negligent, willful, wanton and reckless resulting in the suffering and death of Stacy Murphy, the plaintiff’s daughter.”The suit also alleges Narconon and ABLE acted together in concert to “tortuously operate a dangerous, unsafe an unsupervised drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.”Narconon Arrowhead is a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center at Canadian which has been the center of an ongoing investigation after the deaths of four patients. Three of the deaths occurred at the facility in the last year.

Robert Murphy and Tonya White, parents of 20-year-old Stacy Dawn Murphy of Owasso, seek damages in excess of $75,000 from Narconon Arrowhead, Narconon International, the Association for Better Living and Education International and Dr. Gerald Wootan.
The lawsuit alleges that “Narconon’s actions were grossly negligent, willful, wanton and reckless resulting in the suffering and death of Stacy Murphy, the plaintiff’s daughter.”
The suit also alleges Narconon and ABLE acted together in concert to “tortuously operate a dangerous, unsafe an unsupervised drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.”
On Friday, Stacy’s father said he’s relieved to have the suit filed.
“I’m glad it’s done. Now we can get to the truth,” said Stacy’s father.
Officials at the facility have declined comment. An attorney for Narconon, M. David Riggs, states in a letter to the McAlester News-Capital that federal law prohibits the disclosure of information about participants in drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, and that family members have not consented to release information about Murphy and others who have died in connection with Narconon.
Robert Murphy said the suit had to be filed.
 “Obviously now you have to file a suit to the evidence to get to the truth.”
Filed by trial lawyers Gary L. Richardson and Charles L.  Richardson who represent the plaintiffs, the lawsuit alleges wrongful death, negligence, and violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act. 
“The death of Stacy Murphy is a real tragedy,” the attorneys said in a press release.
 “She was addicted to drugs and she and her parents were introduced to Narconon when they sought treatment for Stacy, the press release states. “They were provided misleading information on the Narconon website and by Narconon representatives, which led them to believe that Narconon Arrowhead would be a safe and effective treatment facility.”
On Thursday, attnorney Gary Richardson said litigation against Narconon Arrowhead was pending for the family of Gabriel Graves, who was also found dead at the facility.
According to police reports,  from October 2011 until July of 2012 three people were found dead at the facility.
In Oct. the body of Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead in his bed facing a wall in his room at the facility then in April, Hillary Holten, 21,  was found dead face down in her bed also in her room at the facility and in July, Murphy was also found dead at Narconon facility.
 Officials are also looking into the 2009 death of Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, who also died while admitted as a Narconon patient. 
The attorneys also allege that Narconon Arrowhead fraudulently tells potential students that a physician is on staff 24 hours a day. “Instead, a physician is present only once a week.”
In August  another lawsuit was filed by Matthew and Suzan Holten, the parents of Hillary Holten.
According to court records, a civil lawsuit filed in Pittsburg County Court on August 23, alleges that Narconon did not provide adequate medical care for Hillary Holten and that she died as a result of Narconon’s negligence.
In the case filed Friday for the Murphy family, the attorneys allege that “Narconon ... and ABLE an umbrella group that oversees the drug rehabilitation, education and criminal justice activities of the Church of Scientology... all rely exclusively on the written 'technology' of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, to address the drug and alcohol rehabilitation needs of students enrolled in Narconon programs. This despite the fact that  Hubbard had no known training or education in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. However, instead of providing drug rehabilitation, the defendants have concealed, and continue to conceal, the Narconon program's true relationship with ABLE by teaching the Hubbard technology.” 
The suit also alleges that students of Narconon receive no counseling or education in drug or alcohol rehabilitation ... and  discussion of drugs and their effects among students and staff is actually discouraged. Instead (Narconon) believe that strict adherence to the Hubbard techonolgy is addresses the rehabilitation needs of it’s students.
The lawsuit states that “Narconon staff is mostly composed of former students of the program and they lack training and education in fields of both drug and alcohol rehabilitation and were not sufficiently trained to evaluate and under stand the serious nature of Stacy Murphy’s condition.”
Her parents were introduced to Narconon when they sought treatment for Stacy. 
According to the lawsuit, “Stacy Murphy became addicted to prescription drugs, and when her addiction escalated to the use of heroin, her parents searched the Internet for safe and effective rehabilitation facilities. After reviewing misleading and fraudulent information provided by the Narconon website, Stacy's parents believed that Narconon Arrowhead would be a safe and effective treatment facility for her, and Stacy agreed to seek treatment there.
 After several weeks of treatment, Stacy requested and was granted a leave of absence to visit her family outside the facility, even though she did not meet any of the criteria for a leave of absence. On July 17, 2012, Stacy left the facility with the permission of Narconon Arrowhead, which violated the facility's own Student Visitors and Leave Rules.
Stacy returned to the facility the next day and sometime later that evening, Narconon Arrowhead staff allegedly observed Stacy and believed she was under the influence of drugs and she was sent to the facility's Withdrawal Unit.”
According the lawsuit, while Stacy was in the Withdrawal Unit, there was no nurse or physician on staff within the facility and, for at least two hours following a shift change, there were no staff members present within the facility to supervise Stacy. “This was in complete contradiction to the statements and assurances made to Stacy's parents about Narconon Arrowhead's staff, specifically, assurances that a physician would be present 24 hours a day,” the lawsuit states.
Stacy was found dead in the Withdrawal Unit on Thursday, July 19, 2012, at approximately 9:20 a.m., the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further states that the defendants had a duty to Stacy Murphy to exercise the required national standards of care to ensure that she was provided a safe, scientifically and medically based, reasonably supervised rehabilitation treatment services.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.