Complaint to NAD about Lorraine Day Infomercial

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

When requested, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus reviews national advertising for truthfulness and accuracy. In June 2004, I asked NAD to review the infomercial used to promote Dr. Lorraine Day's "Cancer Doesn't Scare Me Any More" video in which she claims to have cured herself of metastatic breast cancer with a program featuring diet and prayer. When NAD accepts an complaint for adjudication, the advertiser is invited to respond and the complainant and the advertiser are each permitted to submit an additional responsive statement. The letter shown below is my initial complaint. Under NAD's rules, the subsequent correspondence is confidential except as disclosed in NAD's final report. In November 2004, NAD concluded that my complaint was justified.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Consumer Advocate
P.O. Box 1747
Allentown PA 18105

June 24, 2004

Director, National Advertising Division
Council of Better Business Bureaus
70 W 36th St., 13th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Dear Sir:

I wish to complain about false advertising of the videotape “Cancer Doesn’t Scare Me Any More,” which is being promoted through a 30-minute infomercial by Direct Marketing Concepts/ITV Direct and Donald Barrett. The infomercial is appearing throughout the U.S. on several cable TV networks.

The infomercial features an interview of Lorraine Day, M.D., who claims that she cured herself of metastatic breast cancer after doctors sent her home to die. I am concerned about this tape because I know of people who have abandoned potentially curative treatment because they believed Dr. Day’s story and decided to use diet and prayer as she is advocating.

This complaint is not about her tape or about whether or its contents are true. Authors have a right to advocate anything they want in their writings. Moreover, it is not practical to test whether her method generally works. However, the advertising claim that she cured herself,  which is being used to induce sales, is sufficiently testable that it should fall within your scope. The advertising claim is made by both Day and the program’s moderator. Although it could never be proven with complete certainty that she cured herself, it might be provable beyond a reasonable doubt that she did not by examining her medical records. If, for example, that her biopsy report showed no cancer, then her claim to have cured herself would not be credible.

The actual story is a bit more complicated, but the principle involved is very simple. Day’s video states that in 1992 she noticed a small breast lump but did not seek medical care until about a year later. A pathology report posted to her Web site stated that October 26, 1993, she underwent an "excisional biopsy" in which a 1.7 centimeter tumor was removed and found to contain an infiltrating ductal adenocarcinoma that extended to the margins of the biopsy specimen. I have the report and believe she had cancer as she claimed. That’s not at issue.

Another medical report dated November 2, 1993 indicates that she was advised to have more of her chest area and the lymph nodes under her armpit removed and then undergo radiation treatment. The doctor's note indicates that Day wanted only the wider chest surgery. Day's "Cancer Doesn't Scare Me Anymore" video indicates that a few days later she had a second operation to remove the cancerous margins, the extent of this surgery and the pathology report were not posted on her Web site.  I believe that the report would show that the specimen contained cancerous tissues. If the report states that the specimen margins were clear, it would support the idea that the second operation cured her.

Then, according to the tape, she began eating a strict vegetarian diet, eliminated all refined sugar and processed foods, and drank large amounts of vegetable juice. All went well, she says, until nine months later when her tumor returned, this time the size of a marble. According to her tape:

Suddenly my tumor grew from the size of a marble to the size of a large grapefruit. And it did this in just over a period of just over three weeks. . . . It was the size of a softball. By this time the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes under my arm and at the base of my neck and I knew I was in big trouble. At first, surprisingly, the tumor wasn't very painful, but over time the pain became more and more intense until even but even the strongest narcotic pain medicine would not touch it. . . . .

For over a year I continued to get worse, all the time becoming more anxious and more discouraged. But I kept going forward. I kept studying and trying one thing after another and I kept studying the Bible and praying, asking the Lord to show me how to get well. But nothing worked. My cancer kept getting worse. Because my pain was becoming intolerable, I found one surgeon who was willing to remove a portion of the tumor just for pain relief without forcing me to have mastectomy or chemotherapy. And all the rest of the tumor was left in place, including the lymph nodes. Then they sent me home to die.

She then goes on to describe how she cured herself with a combination of diet and prayer.

The claims that I am questioning are that the third operation did not remove the cancer and that the doctors sent her home to die. These claims are potentially testable.

The key questions are: (a) What was the nature of the “grapefruit-sized” tumor? (b) Did her treating physician note any swollen lymph nodes in her armpits? and (c) Did the pathology report find any evidence of cancer? If the pathology report, for example, shows that the “tumor” was a fluid-filled cyst that had no evidence of cancer cells, it would be clear that she is lying about what happened.  Several people, myself included, have asked her to disclose the records surrounding her third operation. 

In simple terms, if she did not have a medically diagnosed recurrence of her cancer in the grapefruit-sized lump, her advertising claim to have cured herself of cancer would be false. And so would the claim that doctors sent her home to die after the third operation. To investigate her veracity, you could evaluate the records surrounding her third operation and ask the surgeon whether she was sent home to die.

I am enclosing a lengthy article I have written about Day and a transcript of the infomercial. My challenged claims are bold-faced. The transcript doesn’t note it, but the infomercial shows a photo of herself with the grapefruit-sized mass as she tells her story.

By the way, the FTC is suing the infomercial producers for false advertising in connection with infomercials for other health-related products.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter

Sincerely yours,

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

This page was posted on December 13, 2004.

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