Cultural Group: The members of the Church of Scientology
By now, we have all heard the stories on the news, or read them in a magazine. Tom Cruise, an avid member of the Church of Scientology, rejecting to the treatment that Brooke Shields received for her post-partum depression; John Travolta reportedly not receiving proper medical attention for his epileptic son; and there are many more. It made me question, what are the true beliefs of Scientologists. Do they not believe in westernized medicine altogether, or is it mainly just psychiatric treatment? Through some research of the Church of Scientology and their practices and beliefs, via their main website at www.scientology.org
, as well as journal articles, I was able to get a good picture of their way of life.
Scientology, or literally “knowing how to know” (McCall, 2007, p441), is a very spiritual religion, that urges people to learn their own place in the universe, and believes that every person has the ability to change their own mood and life direction through themselves (McCall, 2007). Founded by L.Ron Hubbard in 1954, this religion bases its beliefs on something called “Dianetics”, which is a type of “spiritual healing” that is quite similar to Freud’s theory of id, ego, and superego. It is thought that the inappropriate memories and fantasies from the unconscious mind would eventually lead to physical representation via irrational responses to the environment. The belief of Scientologists is that every person has the ability to free their own mind of these negative influences, without the use of professional psychiatric help or psychoactive drugs (McCall, 2007).
As I gathered from my research, the Church of Scientology does not denounce the use of westernized medicine, and most followers seek appropriate medical attention when needed (Although, I will discuss some of Hubbard’s irrational beliefs later in this paper). However, their views on psychiatric medicine are quite the opposite. Psychiatric medicine and the use of psychoactive drugs are prohibited by the Church of Scientology (McCall, 2007). It was L.Ron Hubbard’s belief that psychoactive drugs, to which he even included such drugs as aspirin, would cause a “wooden-ness of personality” and a build-up of toxins that would lead to delayed effects (McCall, 2007, p 443). Hubbard also condemned the use of mental health professionals, even saying that their intent was that of evil (McCall, 2007).
We have all learned in school that diseases are caused by physiological factors, and that many of these diseases require medications to treat or suppress their symptoms. It is imperative that patients seek proper medical attention to treat their illnesses, both physiological and psychological. It is recognized from scientific studies that most psychiatric illnesses, such as postpartum depression and schizophrenia, are caused by a biological alteration in the body. For example, postpartum depression may be the result of certain physiological conditions, including anemia, thyroid dysfunction, and infection or inflammation (Corwin & Arbour, 2007). It is dangerous for our patient’s health if they do not receive proper medical attention when needed.
The followers of this culture are creating their own “disadvantage” within our healthcare system. Access to psychiatric care and treatment is widely available in this country. By avoiding treatment, they are putting themselves at risk for further complications, not to mention increased stress from the weight placed on their shoulders to “cure themselves”. Although it is important to allow everyone to have their own beliefs, we as practitioners need to be sure that our patients are educated on the importance of medical care and treatment for any illnesses they may have.
One of the statements made by Hubbard that was quite stunning was his claim that “70% of physician’s current roster of diseases fall into the category of psychosomatic illness” (McCall, 2007, p 440). He claimed that diseases, including asthma, arthritis, allergies, peptic ulcer disease, and coronary artery disease, were among the list of psychosomatic illnesses, and these diseases could be relieved through the use of the Dianetics theory (McCall, 2007). Of course, we as healthcare providers know that this is untrue. Although lifestyle habits and diet may help alleviate some of the severity of these diseases, they are all caused by physiological processes in our bodies, and must be medically treated. Another interesting aspect of Scientology is their “purification program”, which is supposed to help its members rid themselves of toxin build-up. This program consists of thirty minutes of running, to dislodge the toxins, followed by four and a half hours in a hot sauna, to “sweat out” the toxins. In combination with this regimen, they recommend that members also drink two tablespoons of pure polyunsaturated oils, along with one to three glasses per day of a calcium-magnesium drink, as well as take multiple supplements to help rid the body of unwanted toxins (McCall, 2007). A regimen that sounds both unhealthy and unsafe!
As an Advanced Practice Nurse, it would be an important part of my job to discuss the need for proper health care and treatment with a patient who was a part of this culture. According to the Scientology website, www.scientology.org
, the number of members to the Church is growing rapidly (n.d.). We may soon see more patients who adhere to these beliefs and practices. We need to try to support the views of our patients; however, we must also educate them on the reality of psychiatric illnesses and the treatment options available to them. Health education and promotion are extremely important in this situation, as with any culture with strict beliefs and practices.
Corwin, E.J. & Arbour, M. (2007). Postpartum fatigue and evidence-based interventions. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 32(4), p 215-220.
McCall, W.V. (2007). Psychiatry and psychology in the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. Journal of Religion and Health, 46(3), p437-447.
Scientology. (n.d.). The official church of scientology: L. Ron Hubbard, dianetics, what is scientology?, books, beliefs. Retrieved on June 8th, 2010, from http://www.scientology.org/
The Ex-Scientologist. (n.d.) The death of L. Ron Hubbard. Retrieved on June 9th, 2010, from http://exscn.net/content/view/184/98/