Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Scientology Treatment of Medical Conditions

Scientologists Sponsor the Drug Free Ambassadors of Australia

We have seen constantly repeated in the press these last days the following assertions:
  • Scientology does not allow medical treatment or the use of medical drugs
  • Scientology does not recognizes autism
  • Scientology is against the use of drugs for the treatment of seizure
These statements are totally false and come from anti-Scientologists with an axe to grin. Nevertheless, these false statements have been repeated in the press without verification of source whatsoever and as if they were facts.


The assertion that Scientology does not allow medical treatment is easily proven false. The Church of Scientology always had clear statements to this effect on its web site:


In the meantime, it also issued an official statement that basically repeats what was posted on the addresses above already (though I wonder why they don't publish it on their own web site).

Tommy Davis, spokesman for Scientology International, and Frank Flinn, religious studies professor at Washington University, have both made comments to that effect as well.


While it is true that Scientology does not approve of the use of drugs for the treatment of mental conditions, they have no such directive whatsoever towards drugs for the treatment of physical ailments. See the above references for confirmation, or this paragraph from the official statement:
"Scientologists use medical drugs and prescription medication when physically ill and also rely on the advice and treatment of medical doctors. Scientologists do not take street drugs or mind altering psychiatric drugs of any kind."


Neither I nor the Scientologists I inquired with ever heard of any rule or position regarding autism from the CoS. One has to wonder, then, where anti-Scientologists and the press who repeated their false and fallacious assertions got the idea from.

While it is true that the Scientology does not believe in the treatment of mental illnesses through drugs, autism is not a mental illness. It is a neurological based condition, thus a medical condition. It would therefore fall under the medical treatment rule as above.

However, there is no medicine to treat autism. Nor is there any cure for it. Nor is it lethal on its own (the seizures being only a co-morbid conditions and not part of the syndrome).

Those who have taken pride about "predicting" the death of Jett if his supposed autism condition was not treated have in fact spoken from the top of their head and only displayed their ignorance and prejudice.

Being without clear directive from the CoS regarding this question, the two Scientologists to whom I put the question simply extended the existing rules to the case:

"There are no claims whether “autism” exists or not and I don’t think the Church has any official policy about autism. Whatever that condition may be, any physical component (like brain damage, seizures etc) would certainly be treated medically."
"The truth is that autism is a physical problem and is therefore addressed by physical means. If by "Scientology" they mean the subject itself, then in my study of the subject I have never seen any mention of this condition, probably because it's a physical condition and Scientology deals with the spiritual."

There is something else you need to know about autism. Autism is not a condition you can diagnose "on sight", as Tim Kenny, Travolta's neighbor, did, and which was readily reported as if his amateur diagnostic was an established fact. Check this out:
"The process for diagnosing autism is complex and generally requires not just one professional, but often multiple professionals.

Almost all of the symptoms of autism which must be established also occur in other, similar disorders, so all these other possible diagnoses need to be eliminated as well. There are also many marginal cases where something could be autism or something else, and it isn't easy to decide even after gathering all appropriate diagnostic information.

A diagnosis of autism is something which follows someone for life. No competent medical professional would just look at someone and make a snap diagnosis. "
Is there any reason to doubt that Travolta and Preston would not have the resources to avail the best medical opinion there is? I believe that if they have been "in denial" about the fact that Jett suffered from autism, it simply was because he wasn't. I am quite confident that if the doctors they consulted had made this diagnostic, they would have deployed all the means at their disposal to give Jett the best treatment there was, even if none could cure him. And no non-existent Church policy would have stopped them, contrary to what critics said about them supposedly putting their religion before the wellness of their children.

Now this does not mean that Jett did not suffer from another neurological based condition. As people noted, he did give the appearance of it and I believe that claim to be valid, though nobody, including John and Kelly, seem to know what it was exactly. The important point, though, were the seizures, and these were fully taken into account.

Even admitting that the Travoltas were in denial of an existing autism condition, it would not have changed a thing, since it is not lethal, does not have a cure, does not have drug or medicine. Some people said Jett would have had a better quality of life if the family acknowledged Jett's autistic condition, but I doubt anybody suffering from a neurological disorder, whatever the name, could have had a better quality of life than Jett.

The important thing is this: Jett had a history of seizure, and this was fully acknowledged by the family. They certainly were not in denial about what was the dangerous aspect of whatever neurological disorder Jett may have had - the seizures, that eventually killed him, which is our last point.


In its press release, the CoS explicitly addressed seizures, aligning it with medical conditions, and thereby making it fall under the rule of medical treatment. It also is false to claim that Scientology would be against the use of drugs to treat seizure. Again, whoever spread that rumor was either misinformed or malicious, or both.

However, there is a catch:
"The majority of seizure medications out there are also used as psychiatric medications - Tegretol and Depakote are used for bipolar illness, Klonopin and Valium for anxiety, Lamictal for depression, and so on. "
That would probably be a dilemma for many Scientologists, but at the end of the day, they don't have much choice. From what I understand, as long as these drugs are being used to threat medical ailments and not mental symptoms, Scientology would not object and would consider it a personal matter, leaving to the parents and individuals affected to decide.

This is also confirmed by the to Scientologists I consulted:

First of all, a Scientologist is not "instructed" to seek medical advice or any other kind of advice by the Church. You write as if the Church runs our entire lives. When my friends' little girl first had a seizure they called an ambulance. They didn't call the Church and ask what to do.
More Grahame:
Physical problems like seizures need to be addressed with the appropriate physical handling. If a drug that handles seizures can also be used for other purposes then I don't think that is important. It is up to the person or parent to get the facts and make a decision based on their own due diligence and the advice of their medical practitioner.
Seizures are a medical problem and certainly anti-seizure medication is ok in the Church’s book. I can add some personal experience to this, namely from knowing two epileptics and Scientologists who are taking their medicine regularly. Such medication is absolutely part of some Scientologists life and the Church of Scientology does not interfere in that.
And of course, we also know now that the Travoltas have been using Depakote for many years, all the while being in perfectly good standing with the Church of Scientology.


As it turn out, thus, the truth is that:
  • Scientology does allow medical treatment or the use of drugs
  • Scientology does recognizes neurological conditions as medical conditions
  • Scientology is not against the use of drugs for the treatment of seizure
Not only those anti-Scientologists, who burst in mourning comments, pointing fingers and assigning blame, have shown themselves totally insensitive and heartless, they also were damn wrong!

At the end of the day, more than something that badly reflects against Scientology, it turns out to be something that badly reflects against critics.

They have called this upon themselves by prematurely jumping to conclusions before all the facts were known, making demeaning and hurtful comments towards a family deeply in pain, and failing to display any measure of true critical thinking, something they supposedly possess in great abundance...

This obviously is no surprise to me, as I have reported many other instances of such behavior over the years on my web site.

Not all critics did engage in such a fanatical and de-humanized behavior, though. Some did put the human aspect before their personal engagement, to wit, Mark Bunker and Howard Stern, but what the public have seen in the news comment is the impression they will retain, the end result being more sympathy for the Scientologists and less credibility for their critics.

Those critics who have jumped to conclusions and blame have now switched tactic. They can't find any valid argument to blame Scientology for Jett's death anymore, so they just use innuendos to give the impression that similar deaths plague Scientology's history. But this is another story, another of their countless myths.


pignotti said...

I have to agree that the behavior and crass insensitivity of some critics in the way they have dehumanized the Travoltas reflects much more poorly on the critics than it does on Scientology. I predict the result will be that Scientology will be much more favorably viewed and critics seen as bigots, so I really hope people will think long and hard about their behavior. One of the main criticisms of cults is that they dehumanize a perceived enemy, but that is exactly what some critics of Scientology are doing in their derogatory hateful treatment of Scientologists.
By way of direct personal experience, I can tell you that when I was on the Apollo in the SO, with LRH present, people including myself were given antibiotics when we needed them. Even for less serious conditions such as seasickness, the motion sickness drug dramamine was made readily available to anyone on the Apollo who wanted to take it. There was nothing in Scientology against taking drugs for medical conditions. While it is true that certain individuals in the SO made derisive remarks to people who took dramamine, it was freely given out and it was not against policy. The only restriction is that people who took these drugs could not get audited for a week but no one ever got into trouble for taking them.

Kenny said...

Hello Bernie,
sorry this comment is a bit (but not completely) OT.
I just want to ask you something.
Grahame has made a post on his blog, where he claims that Scientology would not be against psychiatry, but only against psychiatric abuses.

Yet there is an agreement, which Scientologists allegedly have to sign in order to receive spiritual assistance, which very clearly states that Scientology as a matter of religious belief is opposed to any form of psychiatric practice. (Unless you claim that any form of psychiatric practice is automatically an abuse in itself, this would imho mean something different, than just being against psychiatric abuse)
This is a quote from the document, which you can find here:
and also as a scan here:

"Scientology is unalterably opposed, as a matter of religious belief, to the practice of psychiatry, and espouses as a religious belief that the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills should not be alienated from religion or condoned in nonreligious fields. I am in full agreement with this religious belief. I do not believe in or subscribe to psychiatric labels for individuals It is my strongly held religious belief that all mental problems are spiritual in nature and that there is no such thing as a mentally incompetent person-- only those suffering from spiritual upset of one kind or another dramatized by an individual."

Did you have to sign this agreement at one point in Scientology?

Is in your opinion Scientology against psychiatry in general or just against the abuses (like overmedication, corruption in the big pharma industry, etc.) ?

I have already commented on grahame's blog, but it will take a while until he can answer, since he is currently not in town.

Thanks for your time.

Bernie said...

Hi Kenny,

With all due respect for Grahame, and I think he is indeed a moderate voice and I often agree with much of what he writes, I cannot find myself agreeing with this one.

Scientology may be against psychiatry abuses only, but then it finds that 100% of what psychiatrist does is abusive, so I think this distinction is a bit of a stretch.

I have yet to see one good thing Scientology finds with psychiatry.

Check the link Graham provides to explain why Scientology is against psychiatry. I don't see there that a distinction is made between psychiatry and its abuses. It's a pure unadulterated attack on psychiatry as a whole.

L. Ron Hubbard had a visceral, and in my opinion irrational, hatred for anything psychiatry.It pervades almost all of his writing. I seem to remember that he even link it to a conspiracy of twelve bankers or what seeking to control the world, even the universe...

So, really, I cannot agree with such a statement.

This being said, I also think, like you, that much of what Scientology opposes in psychiatry is justified. But then I also think that some things are maybe positive and, more important, I don't view all psychiatrists as evil. They too are people who are trying to help, at least most of them.

I had a friend who suffered a psychotic breakdown. His mother put him in a terrible place where he was given drugs that would make him feel terrible. That would seem an illustration of what Scientology complains about. But he talked to his mother about it and she moved him to another place, where they mostly kept him on a quiet, green, environment and while still giving him drugs, these were much milder. Eventually he came out of it. So that would be an example of a positive deed by psychiatry.

In another case, I knew of a girl who was depressive and when she went to see a psychiatrist, he made first a blood analysis and found out that the real problem was that she had a hyper-thyroid. Just hormone balancing medicine did wonder.

So there. Some distinctions need to be made indeed, but I don't see Scientology doing that anywhere. It seems to me that what they do is more like demonizing the whole profession. A bit like fanatical critics do with Scientology. I don't believe anything good can come out of that. It's way too radical and only helps to make for themselves more enemies and to diminish their credibility.

Bernie said...

Oops - I misread the declaration you say people have to sign about psychiatry as your opinion. Sorry!

As for the question of whether I had to sign it, I don't remember I did, but then that was almost 30 years ago.

POFFS said...

I was wondering if you could go into detail about the use of Pshychiatric drugs and Scientology. We are doing a group project in our Spiritual Aspects of Care class and we were to pick a "Religious" group and give facts on how to treat them and their religious needs in the hospital care area. Everything on the internet is negative and I was hoping you could shed a more positive light on the subject. I believe we pick the hardest topic we could as we are hard pressed to find anything....

Bernie said...

Hi There,

Now is a bit bad timing for me as I am tied up by work. As you can see, I could not post anything on my blog since last Feb. 20

Basically Scientologists follow the general medical treatment and do not have special need apart from the fact that they would require silence in case of surgery (they believe that the person unconsciously records conversation at the time that would affect them later), and that indeed they would not do any psychiatric treatment or take psychiatric drugs to treat mental conditions. They would, however, take these drugs to treat neurological or medical condition though they would avoid it if they can.

Check my log entries on that matter under the "Jett Travolta" topic and also the "Tory Christman Magoo" one.

Hope this helps.