Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Death of Jett Travolta

John Travolta and his son Jett, from UK Mirror.

As I commented briefly on this thread, I am sometimes alarmed by people in my own profession.

To put it bluntly: Alternative medicine can get wackadoodle as hell. I am considered a somewhat middle-of-the-road sort, since I don't issue blanket criticisms of conventional Western medicine (known as allopathic in alt-med parlance), although I will give major hell to Big Pharm. But certainly, I take thyroid hormone every day, am bloody grateful to get it, and I appreciate the blessing of modern medicine. My problem is with its common abuses, as well as its overwhelming obstinacy concerning the allowance of any other disciplines to take part in healing. I think we have plenty to learn from native herbalists, Ayurveda, yoga, and many other alternative sources/approaches.

Having said all that, of course, I get worried. In fact, plenty worried.

And so, when I heard about the death of Jett Travolta, I took a deep breath. Several, in fact.

Ohhhh, no, I thought. No, no, no.

You know why. Or maybe you don't? In any event, the (UK) Times Online, sure does:

A post-mortem examination determined last night that John Travolta’s chronically ill son died of a seizure, as controversy erupted over the Scientologist actor’s handling of the boy’s medical condition.

According to the family, Jett, 16, suffered a seizure and hit his head on a bathtub at their holiday home in the Bahamas, where he was found dead on Friday.

Glenn Campbell, the assistant director of a local funeral home, said that the body was in “great condition” with no sign of head trauma. He said that the death certificate, based on the post-mortem examination, gave the cause of death as “seizure”
Uh-oh. Seizures.

And this is when I began taking the deep breaths. I could see this coming like a freaking freight train... Seizures usually require, you know, MEDICATION. And the Scientologists don't like medication.

Already, I have read dueling versions of events: yes, they were giving him medication... no, they weren't.

We will likely never find out. Travolta and his spouse, Kelly Preston, already had the body of Jett cremated before entering the USA. There can be no toxicologist report, in that case, to determine if he was taking seizure meds.
The cremation appeared to have been dealt with swiftly, Jett’s body having undergone a post-mortem examination just hours earlier. It concluded that Jett died as the result of a seizure at the family’s luxury holiday home last Friday.

An unconfirmed report on the show-business website TMZ.com claimed yesterday that Jett still had a faint pulse when he was discovered lying in the toilet area of the bathroom, with the door closed. There was “a considerable amount of blood after the resuscitation efforts,” it claimed.
For years, various Hollywood media reports have claimed that Jett had autism, and that the Church of Scientology had it's own particular treatments for this. Some of these (as stated above) are undoubtedly alternative-medicine treatments; I am familiar with most of them. But here it is:
As critics of Scientology questioned Travolta’s handling of his son’s medical condition, Mr Davis stressed that while the Church does not believe in drug treatments for psychological diagnoses, it does not oppose the use of drugs for medical conditions.
Is autism "psychological"?

Does the Church of Scientology believe that it is?

Here is Kevin Libin, writing in the National Post:
One thing the Church might not consider an “ethics breach,” though, is if the Travoltas had refrained from medicating Jett with any drugs he may have required to control a mentally related illness. So far, the nature of Jett’s sickness remains one of the big mysteries surrounding his death: medical experts have disputed the family’s story that the boy suffered from Kawasaki Syndrome, caused (the Travoltas claimed) by environmental pollutants, which others have said was simply a cover story for his autism, a disorder Scientology does not recognize but believes is caused by spiritual disharmony (Scientology, you’ll recall from the Tom Cruise absurdity some years back, dismisses psycho-related illnesses as concoctions by the psychiatric profession—which it unaffectionately calls “an industry of death”). There’s reason to be skeptical: Kawasaki is rarely fatal, seldom affects children older than 8, and isn’t known to cause seizures—though some reports claim the parents did stop medicating for Kawasaki, as the treatments didn’t work—and autism even less so (Jett reportedly had a history of seizures but I can’t find any evidence that autism causes seizures, let alone deadly ones—though I stand ready to be corrected by those who know more about this than I do). (UPDATE: this story suggests autism can cause seizures)

The family’s spokespeople originally insisted the boy had fallen and injured his head on the bathtub. Making things even more mysterious, this doctor—the first, likely, on celebrity reporters' rolodexes since he conducted Anna Nicole Smith's post-mortem—claims that it would take a pathologist weeks to accurately determine a death was caused by seizure. This was no Nassau Medical College graduate making some slap-dash diagnosis: the Travoltas flew in a top medical officer from California. She prepared her report in just a few hours, before the family had the body cremated immediately afterward and flown back to their home in Florida on dad’s private Boeing 707, named after Jett and his sister.
Libin also links to a comment from ex-Scientologist Michael Pattinson, who writes some fascinating stuff about the whole top-secret process that will now kick in, back in Clearwater:
Scientology spokespeople will very likely give out generalized "press releases" through lawyers or PR personnel that will give no real substance for informing the public.

Secondly, the questions that have arisen about whether the anti-drug/anti-pharmaceutical tenets of Scientology might possibly have actually prevented Jett from receiving proper medical treatment or preventative assistance will be downplayed, denied, ridiculed and/or harshly criticized to try to get attention off the issue as fast as possible. This aspect, however, may not just "go away". It is a question of life or death, after all...

Thirdly, the family will very likely go to Clearwater, Florida (or maybe have Scientology professionals come to their Florida home, but this is far less likely) to the Oak Cove building and/or Sandcastle Hotel for what Scientology calls "handlings".
NOTE: They really should get some new nomenclature. Us conspiracy junkies buzz around over-charged terms such as "handlings"; the proverbial moth to the flame.

Okay, what are "handlings"?:
1.Ethics interviews and associated procedures. (Scientology's "Division 1" services.)

This aspect of services would look into the unfortunate and tragic event of Jett's death being a possible result of some kind of personal ethics breach or lack of integrity by the parents. In particular the individual parents would have separate interviews about their own role in the tragedy or how come they "pulled in" (a Scientology ethics jargon term) such an awful situation by something in their own behavior.

The Scientology celebrity ethics officer would also actively look for one or more people in the Travoltas' circle of friends, acquaintances who might be antagonistic to or even anti-Scientology and who could have had sufficient negative influence to "cause" such a tragedy. That person would then be the target of possible disconnection (shunning), firing or lawsuit/fair game. There would be many steps possible for John and Kelly coming out of the "Ethics" handlings, and these could not be predicted here.

***It is worthy of note that the potential question of NOT giving proper or adequate medication would not be considered a Scientology ethics violation due to L.Ron Hubbard's indoctrination to avoid such medical or psychological types of treatment. In fact, the failure to give doctor-recommended drugs or medications to Jett might factually be considered to be a laudable Scientology ethics matter.***
WOW--all you can say to this is WOW! This is looking hairier and hairier.

Some of this information recalls Rolling Stone's amazing article on Scientology back in 2006, wherein several of author Janet Reitman's sources kept backing out and begging for anonymity.

As a confirmed religion/mythology junkie, I tend to give even the flakiest religion the benefit of the doubt... but it was this article that started giving me the major creeps... just because so many people refused to go on the record. (That article is still one of the best and most comprehensive investigations of Scientology that I have found.)

Pattinson continues, describing the upcoming agenda for the Travoltas:
2.Correction interviews and procedural steps (Scientology's "Division 5" services).

These steps, sometimes called "Review" would be services designed to address any failures of John or Kelly (and/or Jett's caretaker, as I believe he is a Scientologist) to have properly applied relevant Scientology technologies to their son or his living situation within the family. Any strictly Scientology-dictated ways of living that are detected as to having been omitted or misapplied would have to be re-studied and drilled till they become second nature.

3.Technical sessions ("auditing") (Scientology's "Division 4" services.)

This would be some very expensive counseling sessions and personal programs designed to remove, if possible, all the negative emotions from this awful tragedy. This can cost up to $1000 an hour. The outcome of this step is varied in its success and can take weeks or months to complete.
Did he say $1000 an hour? Are these the Travolta rates? Do they have a sliding scale for indigent members, or as one of my friends quipped, don't they HAVE any indigent members?

Pattinson adds:
A more cynical prediction: I would also comfortably estimate that Scientology, as an organization, would attempt to get the maximum financial and public relations benefit from this horrible tragedy. It will be interesting to watch how they go about doing this. In any case the organization through its spokespeople will tend to avoid truth, responsibility and facts. It will also use the media without being of any real service to the media. [L. Ron] Hubbard hated journalists almost as much as he hated psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists.
I guess we'll be finding out?

Or maybe we won't.

Stay tuned, sports fans.


Ann oDyne said...

First, please read my post on this.
We know they're all wacko.
FAME is the 1st issue here.
Christian Scientists ignore medical help too - my friends mother died of 14 different things and nobody picked on her for not seeing the quack to avoid death. My friend barely survived her quack-free childhood. But they weren't famous.

Or rich. MONEY is the 2nd issue here.

Iguess by now, the Travoltas have had to answer their 8-y-o daughter's question:

"are you going to let me die too?"

My first thought when I heard the news was "maybe this will help them turn their back on L.Ron and L.Tom"

They are suffering the loss of a child.
What a wake-up call. poor things, as money is no salve.

Daisy said...

Yes, any other parents would have been seriously investigated by now, lacking private doctors and a private airfield and all the rest of it.

Your post was so sweet!

Meowser said...

Daisy, it's not so much that autism causes seizures, it's more like it's a comorbid condition that can sometimes accompany autism. When you're, ahem, neurologically interesting (as I am), a lot of odd brain stuff can start happening, especially in kids who are subjected to extreme stress as a result of their autism (and it's rare to find an autistic kid who's NOT treated that way, frankly).

If Travolta and Preston belong to a religion that doesn't even acknowledge autism, though, we won't ever have any idea whether their child was autie or not. But the very idea that you can think (or pray) your way out of autism...how can that even be possible, if your brain doesn't run along a neurotypical track to begin with? Just because someone can "act NT" at first glance (as many people on the spectrum who can talk are able to do) doesn't mean they really are NT.

Daisy said...

Meowser, apparently, the Scientologist "nannies" are under some suspicion too.

Since they did not believe developmental disability was "real"--these nannies were probably not adequately trained. Jett might have been too big for them to handle, and the blood suggests there could have been a struggle.

But I guess we'll never know now.

I just hope the death of a disabled child is not being swept under the rug, just because his parents are multi-millionaire celebrities?

mikeb302000 said...

I have some friends here who are Jahovah's Witnesses. They don't believe in blood transfusions, for example. But I've often thought if push came to shove, they'd do it. Similar to the way I call myself a Catholic but don't go to extremes with it regarding abortion and homosexuality.

It sounds like the Travoltas may have lacked that common sense flexibility. That's not a trait I would respect.

sheila said...

The whole story in a word: Wacko
And maybe questionable. I was stunned that the cremation was done so soon. I think the whole thing is just so sad.

I cannot fathom that anyone would stay in a religion that would not allow you to get treatment for your child. Or yourself. But a child? OMG. You've gotta be in very deep I suppose.

And the whole thing you wrote about the interviewing afterwards? I didn't know that. Many, what a crock of shit. Expensive shit.

And no toxicology report? Interesting. Wouldn't they do that automically? Very very bizzare. Like I said, the death of a child may help them come to their senses. Probably not.

JoJo said...

Scientologists are WACKED. It's just another mind control cult. If the Travoltas did not get Jett the help he needed, then I hold them responsible for their son's death.

When I went to college in Boston, students had to walk past the Scientology Church to get to one of the dorms & cafeteria. One of the members would stand out front w/ a clipboard and a vaccuous stare, asking if we'd like to take a free personality test.

One night after dinner, 4 of us decided to do it. They kept us trapped for about 4 hours. We had to watch a film w/ L. Ron Hubbard and take a lengthy test that was worded in such a way that a yes answer could mean no, and a no answer could mean yes. We finally were able to get out of there when we firmly held our ground. And one of my friends made fun of the Dianetics book when they told him that his personality test showed that he was "depressed", so we were shown the door.

g said...

The death of Jett Travolta is so sad, and my instinct is to give the family every benefit of doubt regarding their treatment of him. I don't know them, and I don't know anything about his condition, so I have to just stand back and sympathize with their grief. That picture of JT with Jett is so touching.

That said, though, I used to deal with the Hollywood branch of Scientology, as clients when I worked for a theatrical equipment rental firm. OMG! They are the most pushy, agressive negotiators! And then you have to chase them to get your money. I hated having them as clients. This attitude was not just apparent with one person, but with any of the contact people I worked with over a period of a couple years.

Anecdotal, of course, but it really left me an impression of how they deal with the non-Scientology world.

daphne said...

What has gotten under my skin is that while medication is "bad", constantly shampooing the carpet with chemicals that can get be emitted into your system is "OK".


Nice blog, Deadhead lady!