Scientology 'in denial' on illness
January 11, 2009
THOUSANDS of members of the Church of Scientology may be suffering from untreated mental and neurological conditions, according to a former follower who taught John Travolta, the Hollywood star.
Sufferers are told to cure themselves with vitamins and saunas while it is denied that they have problems such as epilepsy or autism, said Tory Christman, now a fierce critic of the church.
Christman left after suffering epileptic fits, culminating in a seizure which caused her to fall in the bath, knocking out her front teeth.
Fellow Scientologists refused to accept that she had a "real" illness, insisting that she work harder studying the teachings of the church's founder, L Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer, she said.
Christman, 62, from Los Angeles, was speaking in response to reports surrounding the sudden death of Travolta's only son, Jett, 16, during a holiday in the Bahamas.
Travolta, 54, and his wife, Kelly Preston, 46, are said to have refused to address suggestions that their son was autistic, maintaining that he suffered from Kawasaki syndrome, an inflammation of the arteries that affects the heart.
Preston said she sought to cure it by changing carpets thought to have triggered allergies, but the boy continued to have seizures throughout his life. She said they tried to treat the seizures with drugs but stopped after being warned that these could damage his liver.
An autopsy in the Bahamas found that Jett died after a "brain seizure" in his bathroom, but no explanation has been given for what lay behind it. The body was cremated hours later.
Dr Michael Kohrman, a paediatric neurologist, said that up to a third of autistic teenagers also suffered epileptic seizures.
Dr Jane Newburger, a cardiologist at the Children's Hospital in Boston, said the death of a child over the age of eight from Kawasaki syndrome was almost unknown. Last week Christman emphasised that her heart went out to her former pupil. "When he saw me years later, he remembered my name.
He is a generous and warm man who did not deserve to lose his son like this." She said she had no idea whether Jett suffered from epileptic fits, which could have caused him to fall in his bath as originally reported, but the condition nearly destroyed her.
Christman said: "They ordered me to stop taking my medicines, saying I could learn to control it. But after I knocked my front teeth out on the bath, my mother came to Los Angeles and got me back on my medicines and I have been able to control it that way since."
Tommy Davis, son of the Scientologist actress Anne Archer and head of the church's Celebrity Center in Los Angeles, challenged Christman's claims. "I personally know two Scientologists who suffer from epilepsy who take some drugs to treat it, because although it may have a neurological aspect it is also a physical medical condition.
And we insist that all people coming into the church have a thorough checkup by their own doctors before they join us. We do not have any policy on conditions like autism, either way. Our questions about psychiatric treatments are well known, but there is no conflict between taking drugs for physical conditions and progress through the church."
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