Complementary and alternative medicine History Holocaust Holocaust denial Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Dr. Lorraine Day’s at it again

You may recall Dr. Lorraine Day, the former Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980’s who, after developing breast cancer, became a consummate altie, selling various dubious “natural, alternative therapies for all diseases, including cancer and AIDS.” Somewhere along the line, sadly, she also became a rabid anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. I’ve had an interest in her conspiracy-mongering for a while now, because she’s the perfect storm of two of my biggest interests: “alternative medicine” and Holocaust denial. I used to refer to her as purveying both medical and historical woo, but soon realized that that was inappropriate. Compared to her rabid homophobia and Holocaust denial, “woo” seems too happy a word, implying a harmless or amusing flight from reason. Her views are anything but that.

Indeed, when last we left her, Dr. Day was discussing in a podcast the “control” of the medical industry by Jews and their Goyim lackeys, including a particularly amusing story (well, amusing in its ludicrousness, not its racism) how the Jews supposedly control all NIH funding to force biomedical research into areas they want. Her evidence? An anecdote about a Jewish colleague who was very successful at getting NIH grants because he actually asked the NIH what it considered as priority areas each year and then tailored his grant applications to those areas.

Damn those crafty Jews!

Sadly, she’s back in another podcast interview with Holocaust denier Daryl Bradford Smith that is an equal mix of woo and disturbing bigotry. Once again, Andrew Mathis does a wonderful takedown of her anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, and historical errors. I highly recommend that you read it, because this time around I think I’ll do a division of labor in dismantling Dr. Day’s misinformation. I’ll let Andrew handle her history- and Holocaust-related lies, and I’ll look into the woo.

And what woo it is!

Dr. Day starts out, not surprisingly, quite badly. Bradford states that he’s always understood disease to be a combination of genetics, external factors, and chance (which is actually not that bad a way of looking at it). She replies first by emphasizing all of her decades-old credentials (she hasn’t practiced any sort of conventional medicine in a long time). After running through the old tropes that drugs don’t treat disease but only cover up its symptoms and that chemotherapy doesn’t treat cancer because it suppresses the immune system, she then makes the blanket statement that all disease is due to just three factors: malnutrition, dehydration, and stress. (At least she’s a little more complex than Hulda Clark when she says all cancer is due to a liver fluke.) She then goes on to state that cancer is a disease of “excess” as well as “deficiency,” in which people eat too much of one thing and too little of another. Although she puts a bit too much emphasis on the diet as the cause of cancer, she starts out here making the rather uncontroversial recommendation that you have to make a permanent change in your lifestyle to stay healthy.

Then she makes a rather idiotic analogy. Like many alties, she goes on about how the body is “designed to heal itself,” using as an example cutting your finger. If you cut your finger, it will usually heal if you leave it alone. According to Dr. Day, the whole body is like that, and if you stop doing what’s “damaging” it you will heal and get well. Of course, if the cut in your finger is too deep, it will probably eventually heal but there will be a nasty scar that might actually interfere with its function. Or, if you cut a tendon, that won’t heal and will leave you with a non-functional finger, unless it is surgically repaired. For a former surgeon, Dr. Day seems to have forgotten the basics of wound healing and surgery, particularly since she probably fixed a few hands in her time as an orthopedic surgeon.

But the real woo is yet to come. After dissing New Age medicine (probably because it’s not her kind of woo) Dr. Day then says:

Well, there are holistic doctors, but most of them are hooked up with the New Age, and that’s not really going to help a person in the long run because disease actually starts in the heart. Whether it is cancer, or lupus or Parkinson’s or heart disease, it starts in the heart, because we want to live and eat our way, rather than the right way. Now there are laws that govern our world, and one of them is the law of gravity. And the law of gravity is immutable, It works on everybody whether they know about it or whether they don’t or whether they like it or whether the don’t or whether they resist it. It is still working on you whether you like it or not. If you go up to a tall building and jump off of it, you’re gonna go down, and no matter how positive thinking you can do you’re going to go down because the law of gravity works on everybody. A child, a baby, when they first get up to walk, they learn, at least superficially, about the law of gravity, because the first time they fall, they realize they’re falling down and then they hurt themselves. They don’t fall up.

Well there are ten laws of health that are just as immutable as these laws of physics, and these ten laws of health are operating on our body all the time. If we know about them and live within them, we will live a long life, a healthy life, and probably die in our sleep at a very old age. But if we disobey those laws, we will get sick at a young age and probably die a long and painful death.

Ah, yes. I love it when alties like Dr. Day come up with immutable “laws of health” that are likened to the “laws” of physics, like gravity. You always know you’re in the presence of grade A woo whenever you hear an analogy like this. She didn’t go into all the laws, but picked out a couple of what she considers to be the most important. One thing she doesn’t consider important at all is genetics. Indeed, she characterized genetics as playing a “very tiny, tiny minuscule role in disease.”

Say what?

Her reason for saying this is because she apparently thinks that doctors are trying to remove all responsibility for anything by blaming it on genes. To her, cancer is not genetic.

That’s where, as a cancer surgeon and biologist, I did a real double-take. Could it be that I’ve been wrong all these years to study genetic alterations in cancer cells? Could it be that I’m wrong to recommend genetic testing to young women that I diagnose with breast cancer because they have a fairly high probability of having a mutation in one of the known breast cancer susceptibility genes, like BRCA1? Similarly, she emphatically stated that heart disease is not genetic either (although she does concede that familial hyperlipidemia is genetic). Now, I’d really love to believe that, given the amount of heart disease that runs in one side of my family, but I’d be really foolish if I did. There is no doubt that there is a significant genetic component to heart disease. There is also a large environmental component, but Dr. Day seems to think that the environmental/lifestyle component is the sole reason that people get heart disease. In other words, if you father and grandfather died of a heart attack, all you have to do is to live right, and you won’t die of a heart attack.

If only it were that easy. “Living right” may decrease your odds of dying of a heart attack, but your genes will also play a role in determining the risk. It’s the same as her misinterpretation of the effect of diet on breast cancer incidence, where she misinterprets the presence of dietary effects on susceptibility to breast cancer to mean that there are no genetic effects. Basically, to Dr. Day, if you live right (which apparently means the way she thinks to be “healthy,” you will live to a ripe old age. It doesn’t matter what your family history or genetics are to her. In essence, she believes that diet can cure almost anything, including cancer. In doing so, she liberally and effortlessly mixes common sense (don’t eat too much fat or fried food and that the diet most Western societies eat is not healthy) with woo (that dehydration causes many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, which to her is due to brain “shrinkage,” that drinking 10 glasses of water a day will ward off disease, apparently neglecting to remember that drinking lots of water isn’t such a hot thing to do if you have kidney disease or congestive heart failure, and that caffeine causes permanent nerve damage) into a toxic stew in which the sound medicine is so mixed in with the flaky and scientifically unsupported ideas that it’s all pretty worthless. Indeed, when discussing how she “healed herself from cancer,” she conveniently neglects to note that she did indeed have a lumpectomy.

Yes, she’s another one who underwent some conventional therapy but attributes her survival to the woo.

Here’s one last example. Dr. Day says that the brain shrinks when someone has hypertension because one of the reasons that the brain shrinks is because, supposedly, one of the main causes of hypertension is not drinking enough water (patently untrue). In her world, the reason the brain continues to shrink in hypertension is because hypertension is often treated with diuretics. And, to her, the cause of Alzheimer’s is this brain shrinkage. Of course, unless a hypertensive patient develops mini-strokes, his brain won’t “continue shrinking” in hypertension.

OK, one last example. Dr. Day doesn’t believe that vitamin C is any good for cancer. You’d think that would be good. She even pointed out that Linus Pauling tried to suppress results that showed that vitamin C actually accelerated the growth of tumors. Too bad she misrepresented the experiments by saying that when the animals were given natural fruits and vegetables the tumors shrank. In actuality, the tumors grew the most slowly with diets with “the worst balance of nutrients.”

As I’ve said before, credulity towards dubious ideas in one sphere is often associated with credulity in others, she concludes by going off the rails. Indeed, one of the reasons she thinks that you should remain healthy by eating a proper diet is to be able to “fight the battle.” What battle would that be, you ask? Guess.

Yes, indeed, the battle against Jews and the New World Order, and their puppets George Bush and most members of Congress.

Take it away from there, Andrew.

Worse, I’ve now learned that Dr. Day is a 9/11 Truther as well, who thinks that the Bush administration and Israel were behind the attacks.

Sadly, it’s woo upon woo coming from Dr. Day, and it’s continuing to build, complete with claims that the CIA is controlled by Jews, who assassinated John F. Kennedy because he would not let the Jews control American foreign policy, and who blew up JFK, Jr.’s plane because he supposdly “found out” who was responsible for his father’s death and was going to expose it in his magazine but was betrayed by a friend to whom he allegedly confieded this bombshell. Oh, and rock music was the culmination of a plot by “Zionists” to find the perfect beat to mesmerize our youth, and AIDS was created by the U.S. government, and the New World Order wants everyone not part of it to die.

All I can ask is: What happened to Dr. Day? How does a formerly intelligent, competent academic surgeon fall so low?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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