Multi-level marketing seller Jessie Lee Ward has died of colon cancer after trying to cure it naturally.
Ward was the vice president of Pruvit, a company that sells ketone supplement products. Pruvit released a statement about Ward’s untimely death on Instagram, writing, “Her life was cut short but the years we’ve known her, she lived the quality of life equal to several lifetimes.”
Ward had made a string of controversial statements about cancer treatments since her diagnosis earlier this year, per The Daily Beast.
She shared that she had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in March following routine blood work. Her oncologist suggested aggressive chemotherapy to extend her life expectancy; Ward subsequently shared on social media that she doubted her care team’s expertise.
“My surgeon and the oncologist are one hundred per cent pimps. Not of women, of chemo. They love that h*e,” she said. “I have never in my life seen such a strong and compelling sales pitch. They really should go into sales.”
In a TikTok video, she said, “I’m very anti-all of that. I didn’t even give my dog chemo when she had cancer. I took a holistic route.”
Ward said she would try using a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, “ozone” treatments, “magnetic” treatments, and “red-light therapy” to treat her illness.
Media personalities criticised Ward’s decision to publicise her plan since it wasn’t backed by scientific evidence or doctors’ recommendations.
“She genuinely seems to believe that chemotherapy does not work and that her unproven alternative therapies will work and that she will beat this,” Rebecca Watson said in a YouTube video. “She is stating this all to her huge audience of devoted followers. So not only is this likely going to kill her, but there’s a good chance it’s going to kill someone else too.”
According to a review published last year in JCO Oncology Practice, the internet has led to an increase in cancer-related misinformation.
“Understanding how the Internet has changed engagement with health information and facilitated the spread of misinformation is an important task and challenge for cancer clinicians,” the review said.
Social media, specifically, has become a dangerous source of misinformation, the review found.
“Social media users are more likely to believe that information is correct if it is posted by a credible source, and in the case of medical information, it will typically be someone with healthcare-related credentials,” the authors of the report wrote. “However, there is no online verification of credentials for social media accounts, and anyone can engage in social media without providing credentials or by reporting false ones.”
To make matters worse, social media companies haven’t been incentivized to limit misinformation, the review said.
False claims like the ones made by Ward before her death are especially concerning, per the report, which said, “Oncology-related health misinformation on social media is a pressing concern. [Research shows] a significant negative correlation between scientific quality and viewer engagement among prostate cancer informational videos on Youtube.” People are more likely to watch videos on this subject that contain poor quality information than videos that contain higher-quality information.
The abundance of unchecked information online is a huge problem for patients, and interventions need to be made to control the quality of that information, the report said.
“It is clear that online cancer information is inconsistent and sometimes at odds with published data and expert opinions,” the authors wrote. “It is no wonder that patients may become confused and unsure where to turn and who to trust.”