Utah wasting tax-payer money on Scientology Quackery
The Utah Legislature continued funding a Scientology-based treatment for police officers exposed to methamphetamine, despite a state-funded study that was unable to find a connection between the drug and officers’ illnesses.
As lawmakers were slashing funds for other state programs, they sidestepped public debate and appropriated $100,000 — enough cash for about 20 police officers to undergo the regimen of exercise, sauna time and large doses of antioxidants.
The funding was added by Senate Republicans in the waning days of the session, with the backing of Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
“It didn’t come directly through the committee,” said Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, co-chair of a committee that would have reviewed the appropriation. “It was just arranged, I guess, through leadership.”
Meanwhile, Shurtleff said plans are underway for two “Hollywood stars” to hold fundraisers to treat more Utah cops. He declined to identify the pair.
The detoxification treatment was first devised in 1977 by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.
The public and private money is the latest effort to help officers who believe investigating and dismantling meth laboratories damaged their health.
Thirty-nine current or former Utah peace officers have undergone the treatment, which currently costs about $5,200 per person, said Sandra Lucas, director of the American Detoxification Foundation. It runs the Orem clinic that has contracted with the state to treat the officers.
Five more officers are about to begin treatment thanks to private donations, and Lucas says she has a waiting list of about 80 officers.
Lucas also keeps another list — the names of 10 Utah drug officers who have died of cancer at an early age or suffered a sudden fatal illness.
During treatment, officers rest in a sauna for hours, exercise and eat a diet high in anti-oxidants and other nutrients that boost the excretory system. The regimen, which aims to purge poisons, consumes up to six hours a day for 36 consecutive days.
Lt. Richard Ferguson of the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force estimates he was exposed to 100 meth labs in an eight-year span. He suffered from headaches and acid reflux until he underwent the treatment.
“Scientifically, I guess there’s something to it because I don’t have to take a prescription anymore,” Ferguson said.
But science has yet to determine whether the saunas, exercise and improved diet are simply making cops generally healthier, or are actually tackling illnesses caused by meth exposure.
In 2007, the Orem clinic’s then-medical director acknowledged no studies have been conducted to show the program’s impact on people exposed to meth. And toxicology experts question whether poisons from meth exposure years ago remain in officers’ bodies.
Last fall, the University of Utah published a study examining whether there was scientific evidence to support a presumption that meth sickened police officers who are seeking workers compensation benefits.
The study found “some suggestions” the officers have an elevated risk of contracting lymphoma, melanoma and colon and rectal cancers.
But the study, which cost $500,000, also warned: “These conclusions must be viewed cautiously based on the low participation rates.”
Shurtleff said that although the treatment is called The Hubbard Method, “that is as far as any of these officers learn about Scientology.”
“All they know is the process works,” said Shurtleff. “They still have friends dying, many of them are convinced, from [meth exposure]. It gives them some hope, some help.”