NAD Concludes That Lorraine Day
Infomercial Is Misleading

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Lorraine Day, M.D., would like you to believe that she cured herself of metastatic breast cancer with a 10-step program featuring diet and prayer. For several years Day has been marketing videotapes that provide her story and advise consumers to use her program rather than standard treatment. I believe she was cured by surgery. She has released medical records documenting that she had a biopsy followed by a wider local operation, but she has refused to release additional records that might show whether or not any cancer remained after the second operation.

I believe that Day's advice is misleading and very dangerous. After ITV Direct began broadcasting an infomercial for Day's "Cancer Doesn't Scare Me Any More" videotape, I asked the Council of Better Business Bureaus' National Advertising Division (NAD) to investigate. In response to my complaint, NAD has concluded that the infomercial is misleading. While noting that people are free to tell their stories or offer personal opinions, NAD's report states:

The infomercial . . . does more than tell a story or offer an opinion. It contains objectively provable claims, both express and implied, which advertisers are obligated to substantiate. For example, the infomercial specifically claims that diet and lifestyle choices, rather than conventional medical treatment, are responsible for Dr. Day getting well. Inherent in that claim is a factual assumption—that following her second surgery in 1993, that Dr. Day actually still had cancer. The infomercial explicitly claims that the surgery was not successful and that Dr. Day was "sent home to die." The claim is one that might be verified by examining medical records. Although the advertiser maintains that Dr. Day is under no duty to disclose medical records to the challenger, the burden of substantiating all objectively provable claims and reasonable implied claims is incumbent on all advertisers. Such substantiation potentially existed in the pathology report (or an equivalent medical record) regarding Dr. Day's second operation. Such records could determine whether the second specimen had clear borders which may indicate that all of the remaining tumor had been removed., The advertiser, however, provided no evidence that Dr. Day was found to have cancerous elements in her body following the second surgery or that she was "sent home to die" by doctors.

NAD's conclusion is loud and clear:

The infomercial . . . implied that Dr. Lorraine Day, by virtue of following a 10-step program consisting of diet and lifestyle modification, was cured of cancer. NAD determined that the advertiser failed to provide a reasonable basis for this and for underlying objectively provable claims. Accordingly, the NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the following claims:

  1. The claim that Dr. Day had cancerous cells following her second surgery and that doctors "sent her home to die",
  2. The claim that if people go on a vegetarian diet and exercise on a regular basis and decrease their alcoholic intake, they will decrease their incidence of caner by 33 percent. . . and
  3. The claim that "chemotherapy doesn't work for anybody."

ITV Direct disagreed with NAD's conclusions but said it would "take them under advisement for all future edits or modifications of the infomercial." An NAD official told me that if the infomercial is not modified within a reasonable period of time, NAD is likely to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

For Additional Information

This article was revised on December 13, 2004.

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