The Worst Phony Cancer Cures

Stephen Barrett MD

Stephen Barrett, MD, Retired Psychiatrist; Medical Editor for Quackwatch.org and 24 other consumer-protection Web sites; Publisher for Consumer Health Digest; Chapel Hill, NC;
Email: sbinfo@quackwatch.org

Q: Who tops your list as the most brazen promoters of phony cancer cures in the past 25 years?

A: Three people come to mind: Gregory Caplinger, Hulda Clark, and Dr. Lorraine Day.

Gregory Earl Caplinger died in 2009 while serving a 12-year prison sentence for fraud. For many years he claimed to be a distinguished and widely published medical doctor, professor, and researcher. However, he did not have a bona fide medical degree and accumulated more questionable “credentials” than any other impostor I have ever investigated or heard of. His bio listed more than 75 of them. A habitual con man, he got into legal trouble at least six times for defrauding people. During the mid-1990s, he began operating a clinic in the Dominican Republic that offered treatment to desperate cancer patients. In 2000, after a six-day trial, a North Carolina jury convicted him of wire fraud and money laundering related to “investments” in his phony remedy “ImmuStim.” In 2001, he was sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million restitution to several victims.

Hulda Regehr Clark (1928-2009) falsely claimed to cure cancer, AIDS, and many other serious diseases with herbs and low-voltage electrical devices. She earned an accredited Ph.D. in zoology but practiced “naturopathy” based on a correspondence course obtained from a non-accredited correspondence school. She was best known for her book, Cure for All Cancers, which claimed that all cancers and many other diseases are caused by “parasites, toxins, and pollutants” and can be cured by killing the parasites and ridding the body of environmental chemicals. Clark used and promoted two medically worthless galvanometric devices. Her “Synchometer” allegedly identified diseased organs and detected toxic substances by noting whether the device made various sounds when “test substances” were placed on a plate. Her “Zapper” allegedly killed microorganisms with electrical energy without harming human tissue. Its use was based on the notion that all living things broadcast characteristic radio frequencies and that the device would issue counter-frequencies that killed unwanted organisms. Clark said she could tell when cancer and AIDS patients were cured within days or even a few hours after her treatment was begun. She died of complications of multiple myeloma under circumstances which suggest that her life was shortened by failure to seek timely medical care.

Lorraine Jeanette Day, M.D. (1937- ), would like people to believe that personal experiences have enabled her to discover the answer to cancer. Unlike Caplinger and Clark, Day has excellent credentials (as an orthopedic surgeon), but in 1989, she suddenly withdrew from medical practice. A few years later, she underwent diagnostic and incisional biopsies for breast cancer. About 20 years ago, she began marketing educational videotapes which claim that her cancer ultimately caused her to become deathly ill and bedridden for many months, but cured herself with a combination of diet and prayer. However, portions of medical records suggest that she had an early-stage intraductal carcinoma that was completely removed during her second biopsy. (She could easily address this issue but has refused repeated requests for the relevant medical records.) Day advises people not to trust the medical profession and claims that standard cancer treatment has never cured anyone. Instead, she recommends strengthening the immune system by dietary means and other methods recommended in her educational materials. Day’s medical credentials and apparent sincerity make her particularly dangerous. A few people have told me about relatives with treatable cancers who shortened their life by relying on Day’s advice instead of standard care.


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