CLEARWATER -- As prosecutors consider whether to proceed with
criminal charges in the death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson, the
Church of Scientology on Monday presented two nationally known
pathologists who said they have scientific evidence that the 1995 death
Drs. Michael M. Baden and Cyril H. Wecht also suggested their work is
so conclusive the case should be dropped.
Their primary conclusion: McPherson, 36, died suddenly and
unpredictably of a blood clot in her left lung that originated from a
knee bruise she suffered in a minor auto accident 17 days earlier.
"This is Forensic Pathology 101," said Baden, once part of
O.J. Simpson's "dream team" defense. "This is not
Wecht said the area behind McPherson's left knee, where the clot
formed, is a common site for blood clots to develop. He said it traveled
into McPherson's heart and lodged in her left lung.
"This is a very common cause of death in America," he said.
"It remains a major problem in medicine."
Baden and Wecht said medical evidence proves McPherson did not die
from anything done by staffers at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel,
who, after the auto accident, tried for 17 days to nurse McPherson
through a severe mental breakdown.
Prosecutors have questioned some of the methods of the Scientology
staff, including forcing food and medication down McPherson's throat and
giving her prescription medication and injections without medical
licenses. But Wecht and Baden dismissed these as the harmless actions of
people trying to help. They said they did not warrant criminal
The doctors, hired two years ago by Scientology, also asserted there
is no evidence that McPherson was dehydrated or malnourished.
Baden and Wecht said they flew to Clearwater to respond to a recent
St. Petersburg Times editorial about the case. In doing so, the two
doctors provided insight into the size and scope of the church's defense
team. Wecht said six additional forensic pathologists had independently
reached the same conclusions he and Baden reached.
Baden, a former chief medical examiner in New York City, has played
roles in some of the country's most celebrated death cases. He
participated in the re-autopsy of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He
led the 1979 congressional re-examination of evidence in the
assassination of President Kennedy, and worked on the autopsies of the
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., actor John Belushi and former baseball
manager Billy Martin.
Wecht, a lawyer and the county coroner in Pittsburgh, also worked on
the 1979 Kennedy assassination commission and is a frequent commentator
on major death cases.
Both doctors said they spoke Monday because of a March 3 Times
editorial that said the church's experts put pressure on Wood to change