Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

One last update (for now) on the youth who “cured himself” of melanoma, Chad Jessop

I hadn’t intended to write about this again, at least not for a while, but curiosity got the better of me. About a month and a half ago, I discussed a highly dubious story that was going around by e-mail about a 17-year-old boy with melanoma whose mother supposedly “cured” him with “natural” treatments. As you might imagine, the story was riddled with incorrect-sounding medical information and inconsistencies. Earlier this week, through a highly credulous blogger going by the ‘nym the Angry Scientist, I became aware of an update to the story, in which the names of the mother and child (Laurie and Chad Jessop) were revealed and more details given. This more complete story was even harder to believe than the first version. Helpful readers did a Lexis-Nexus search and failed to find any evidence that this story had happened, and another suggested trying to contact someone who seemed to be the same Laurie Jessop as the story. I was debating whether to try to do that or not when, just for the heck of it, I decided to visit the comment thread after the Angry Scientist’s post.

There were more of the usual outraged people ranting about the “assault on health freedom,” never once considering the implausibility and internal contradictions in the story for a minute and wondering if maybe, just maybe, the story wasn’t true. Well, there was one somewhat skeptical voice asking for “verifiable” information if the Angry Scientist’s readers were expected to get outraged and do something, but he was pretty much ignored. What caught my interest, though was this comment by a woman named Sandy:

Lee Woodard Sr. of Human Rights USA, a msn advocacy group has asked me to research this and seek direct contact with this family. While we normaly will not become involved in a case without a request from a party directly involved in a case he has waved all such restrictions in this instance and will puplicly state this due to tghe 1) urgency in regards to the young mans health 2) BECAUSE of the GAG ORDER 3) and the ongoing threat it reveals to thousands of youth in America today.

Anyone that can provide updated info or provide direct contact with this family is asked to forward it directly to [email protected]

We must be realist and understand we can not promise anything, but Human Rights USA will make all efforts to safeguard the True Best Interest of the Child in a plan of action that can be developed with the consent and approval of the family involved.

Well, well, well. Maybe I wouldn’t have to do any real work after all. Maybe Sandy would take care of the investigation. But what is this organization she represents? Here are the Human Rights USA website and its MSN group, which describes it thusly:

Human Rights USA is a grass roots group that was set up to educate and advocate on matters of human rights within the United States. We are set up to aid victims of abuse as well as those in government, education and commerce to learn how to perform thier jobs while respecting human rights issues of those they are involved with.

Human Rights USA was the evolution of the works of Lee Woodard Sr. and his advocacy work with special needs children, special education, medical and insurance issues, social security and FAMILY SECURITY. In the fifteen years of special needs advocacy he helped to bring about many changes that affect thousands of families a year and improve treatment of as many special needs children. Among them hospitals have expanded care and treatment to include many that were not covered before. Brought recognition and coverage to treatments and therapys such as patternization therapy, coffee verses drugs and even video games as a therpy tool. As a natural by-product of his work he realized the greater problem of those he worked with and expanded his efforts to Human Rights.

Human Rights USA works with individuals, advocacy groups and organizations as well as with the bueracratic structure to safeguard human rights, promote human rights education and hold accountable those that abuse the rights of others within these United States.

It is our position that the gross violations of human rights within these United States contribute heavily to the problems that face our society today, and will carry a heavy tax burden well into the future. The United States for some years has held the dubious destinction of keeping the largest percentage of it`s population BEHIND BARs. This fact alone should alert us all to the fact that something is seriously wrong.

Perusing some of its webpages on family rights and child rights, I got the feeling that the group was a little cranky but not necessarily in a bad way. Then on this page I found some links to ADD anti-medication, anti-psychiatry rants, and a reference to the “forced poisoning” of Abraham Cherrix. Not so good. But, hey, let’s see what Sandy found out:

My own efforts and those of Mr. Woodard to confirm this situation has so far failed. In a phone conversation with the news director of KFWB radio Mr Woodard was told that a search of their archives failed to turn up any story on Chad or his mother.

IF THIS IS REAL we are ready to try and raise a response nationaly with the aid of other advocacy groups. Before we can do anything we must confirm the facts.

Why am I not surprised that Sandy and Mr. Woodward got these results? Does anyone think they’ll actually find any verifiable evidence that this incident ever happened? Increasingly, I don’t. In fact, Mr. Woodward has come to the same conclusion:

In the matter of Laurie and Chad Jessop it has been told that Laurie was arrested in Orange County after turning away from conventional medicine and Chad being cured of melanoma using more natural means.

I have contacted several stations and persons mentioned in this story as well as completed a lengthy search.

A) No person or station had any knowledge or records of the claimed events.
My search could find no news source that collaborated any of the events.

B) My search did turn up similar references of the story that predated the events

Thus Human Rights USA has stopped all efforts related to this considering it to be a hoax. I personally take responsibility for any material, post or releases that has use our name on this matter and apologize that they occurred. This has been the first such incident in our history and we will take ongoing steps to insure it is the last.

I am, however, not nearly as charitable as Mr. Woodard is regarding the deluded idiots who spread this story:

I hold no one here or at other sites responsible for this. They took and posted information on good faith. I have always held to a level of responsibility here that in this incidence I failed to maintain. While that did not create the incidence it did fuel its spread.

Mr. Woodard may not hold anyone responsible for this, but I do. The story was so obviously fraudulent, so obviously full of holes, so clearly ridiculous to anyone with even a little knowledge about melanoma and how it is treated, and so clearly containing elements suggestive of an urban legend, that anyone with a even modicum of responsibility and critical thinking skills would have investigated it before spreading it far and wide across the Internet and blogsophere. Clearly the Angry Scientist is no such person. He’s drunk the Kool Aid and is still trying to defend this story:

Gary Null read that e-mail on KPFK, not his regular show. To those of you who think this is some kind of hoax I made up, Gary also talked about it on his daily show Sept. 13, 2007, starting about 11 minutes and 45 seconds into the broadcast, for over five minutes. You can listen or download that show at

Gary Null is an authority on the alternative health movement. He is also a scientist. Not every form of alternative health treatment gets his approval; he only recommends what scientific research shows actually works. His site has tons of information. He has been on the air talking about alternative health for about thirty years, has authored a number of best-selling books and award-winning documentaries, and has set records raising funds for public television. Naturally the quackbusters think he is a quack. Tell that to the scores of people diagnosed as terminally ill with no chance of survival whose lives he saved. Michael Moore is a friend of his, and has appeared in a couple of Null’s documentaries. Susan Sarandon is another friend of his. Barbara Seaman is another. Dr. David Graham, the man who blew the whistle on Vioxx despite FDA attempts to blackmail him, is another, featured prominently in Null’s film Prescription for Disaster, which I reviewed on this blog. That film and some others are available to view for free on Google Video. Gary Null has made plenty of enemies in the medical establishment, but when they try to take him on, they lose.

This is, of course, nothing but an incredibly vacuous appeal to authority, given that Gary Null is clearly not any sort of credible authority. (And if Michael Moore really is a friend of Null’s, my assessment of Moore has fallen even further, if that’s possible.) If you don’t believe me about Gary Null, Whitecoat Underground has the skinny on just how seriously into woo he is. I also subjected myself to Null’s discussion of the case. One thing I noticed is that the story he told has a number of differences from the originally circulated e-mail and the Angry Scientist’s update. I also noticed that Null seemed to call Laurie Jessop “Laurie Bishop” at one point. The story seems to mutate continuously, depending upon who’s telling it–like an urban legend. That, however, doesn’t keep Mr. Woodard from chiming in again with dark conspiratorial speculations, in a desperate attempt not to look as though he had been totally taken in by an urban legend or hoax:

I know my concerns have been forwarded to the Jessop family, and hopefully this will all be made clear over the next few days. If it is in fact real then it would seem that far more than a mere court order was at play in keeping the public in the dark on the matter.

I stand by my first post, as my cell phone records and easily repeated searches will affirm but that does not say we have not been broadsided by the system. If we have, so far they have won.

“Far more than a court order was at play”? Oh, no! The dreaded “they” have won! I wonder if the Illuminati had a hand in suppressing the story about how the government is supposedly forcing poor Chad to undergo chemotherapy for a cancer that may or may not be advanced (but most likely not) and for which chemotherapy is only rarely indicated.

Seriously, though, increasingly I wonder who is behind what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to spread this story. True, it could just be an urban legend, but it sure does give the appearance now of being promoted for a purpose. We already know that a group known as Democracy In Action published the original e-mail, signed by Thomas Cowles II, Media Director of the Natural Solutions Foundation, on its website coupled with a plea for those supporting “health freedom” to donate money. So that’s definitely one candidate. The other question is who is the Angry Scientist? His blog is clearly the first site where the updated version of the story appeared. What does he have to do with pushing this story? Finally, one thing that makes me wonder about who is behind this is the explicit appeal to support Ron Paul’s Health Freedom Act in the original e-mail. Could it be that Ron Paul’s campaign is somehow behind this? Who knows?

Whatever the source, whether this story is simply an urban legend that was seized upon opportunistically or whether it’s an orchestrated campaign, it sure fails the smell test.


  1. The story of the 17-year-old with melanoma being forced to undergo chemotherapy: Urban legend?
  2. Thomas Cowles twisting in the wind defending the “cancer boy” urban legend
  3. An update on the youth who “cured himself” of melanoma, Chad Jessop
  4. One last update (for now) on the youth who “cured himself” of melanoma, Chad Jessop
  5. “I have seen the light! The Chad Jessop melanoma story happened. Really.”
  6. Lee Woodard on the Chad Jessop melanoma story: “Why would I promote a hoax?”


  1. Legendary Legend or Mysterious Mystery?


  1. Dear Health Freedom Fighters (September 12, 2007)
  2. The Gary Null Show 9/13/2007 (The relevant segment is at approximately the 11:45 minute mark.)
  3. Mother Jailed, Put On Trial for Curing Her Son of Melanoma (October 3, 2007)
  4. Mother Jailed, Put On Trial for Curing Her Son of Melanoma (published in the Los Angeles Free Press on 11/12/2007, PDF here)

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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