[Guest Post on Hyperemesis Gravidarum from the webmaster of Ashli McCall’s Beyond Morning Sickness website]
Attention, Women with hyperemesis gravidarum: You aren’t suffering enough. At least that’s the impression one might get from the author of Hyperemesis: The Answers, who has set out to victimize desperate HGers with an internet scam.
Google the word “hyperemesis” and an ad will appear at the top of the page offering a link to the “The Answers” enthusiastic webpage. Once there, HGers are instructed to prepare for what will be “the most exciting message you ever read.” The “amazing” new e-book is “Packed With Everything You Wanted To Know” about the disease, so “it’s not like any other e-book you can get or read on hyperemesis gravidarum.” It’s “laser-guided accurate information – SPECIFICALLY for Hyperemesis Gravidarum.” Testimonials from June, Jayne and Pamela of respectively Brisbane, New York and London drive home the point. And although it’s an e-book, the author supplies a picture of what this “fantastic resource of information and help” might look like if you printed it out and slapped on a smiling-baby cover:
What makes this book — seemingly 200-300 pages long — “such a bargain at $27”? For one, it explains “a treatment that has an 88% success rate….that in itself has to be worth it!!!!!” In addition to that, there are encouraging “feel good” stories for those who fall into the remaining 12%. The author also notes that although the research cost her $420, her charitable instincts have overcome her.
Says this Mother Theresa of HG: “I know I could charge more for this type of information, but hey, sometimes it is more about helping people than making money.”
But hey, sometimes it’s not.
A caring husband who was “totally lost” as he struggled with a job, three children and a wife hospitalized with HG, recently sent me the link to “The Answers.” It was New Years’ Eve and but I think his desperation had made him oblivious to the date. He asked me if I could “shed some light” on the book — Was it worth the price?
I knew I could have answered his question without downloading it, without looking at it. After seven years wandering around the frustrating HG battlefield I still don’t have “the answers.” But I feared that if I simply told him that, my weary skepticism would be no match for the exuberant certainty of the ad. The promise of quick cure was too tempting and he might well go ahead and buy it anyway just to obtain that near-surefire 88% secret treatment. So I downloaded it myself and passed it along to satisfy his curiosity.
Having done so, I will honor his request “shed some light” on The Answers.
“The Answers” is not the answer. Virtually all of the words appearing on its 26 (not 200) sloppily cobbled-together pages have been plagiarized in bulk from a few easily accessible, uncredited internet pages: Wikipedia, a FAQ page at the HER Foundation, and a handful of e-medicine sites. The 88%-effective treatment is hypnosis — and that section consists of five paragraphs cut-and-pasted from a psychology Ph.D’s July 1999 letter to the editor of American Family Physician. Here are the remaining ingredients to The Answers if you’d like to reassemble its Frankensteinian .pdf file for yourself:
Pages 1-3: Cover Page (three words), Table of Contents (see ad) and disclaimer page (three paragraphs).
Page 4: “What is it?” — Definition of Hyperemesis lifted here from MedicineNet.com.
Page 4-5: “Who Gets it?”/”What Causes it?”/”Symptoms” — lifted here from Pregnancy-info.net.
Pages 6-7: “How do I Know if it is . . . Hyperemesis”/”How Long Does it Last” — lifted from this HER Foundation FAQ page.
Page 7: “Does it Get Better” — lifted here from pregnancy.org.
Page 8: “Does it Affect My Baby” — lifted from the HER Foundation Risks & Outcome page.
Pages 10-11: “Will I Get it Again”/”People Think I’m Making it Up” — lifted from this HER Foundation FAQ page.
Pages 12-13, 15: “Treatments & Remedies”/”More Remedies” — lifted from this HER Foundation pdf file.
Page 14: “Try These Foods As Well” — lifted from this WedMD eMedicine page.
Page 16: “Ginger Tea” — lifted from this Wikipedia entry on Ginger.
Page 16: “IV Hydration” — lift from this Wikipedia entry on HG.
Pages 17-18: “Over-the-Counter Medicines”/”Prescription Medicines” — lifted from this HER Foundation pdf file.
Pages 19-20: “Hypnosis in the Treatment of HG” — see 1999 letter to the editor linked above.
Pages 21-22: “Feel Good Stories 1” — lifted from Mary’s HuGStory at the Angelfire HuGs Hyperemesis Gravidarum Survivors website
Pages 23-24: “Feel Good Stories 2” — lifted from Audrey’s HuGStory at the Angelfire HuGs Hyperemesis Gravidarum Survivors website
Page 25: Online Support Groups” — a list of six websites (the HER Foundation conspicuously missing), two of them with misspelled urls:
The only “original” material appears on pages 9 and 26. Both pages are replete with sentence fragments, run-on sentences and other grammatical embarrassments. Page 9 covers gender prediction, heredity and miscarriages in under 150 words (“There is to [sic] many other factors involved to say that a miscarriage happened because the women [sic] had hyperemesis”). Page 26 is a “final note,” evidentally aimed at discouraging refunds (“Even if you found one piece of information that got a result or gave your piece [sic] of mind or a better understanding, I am sure that itself is worth its weigh [sic] in gold”). The author of “The Answers,” in case you are not so discouraged, is never identified anywhere in the e-book or the ad.
The pitch for “The Answers” varies slightly from week to week. When I first accessed the ad, the author was cautioning that “Once I get a few more testimonials from satisfied customers, the price will increase.” Sometimes it cost $30; sometimes $27, sometimes $17. In one version the author’s research cost her $900 rather than $420.
To top it off, “The Answers” scam is part of a much larger fraud. Google the phrase “laser-guided accurate information,” or “the most exciting message you ever read” and you’ll find a plethora of similar ads for plagiarized e-books on a wide variety of topics. Ending Excessive Sweating. How to Train Your Wife. Raising a Happy and Healthy Bearded Dragon. They all contain one permutation or another of the same set boilerplate come-on lines. And the phony testimonials and the claims about the cost of the research. Apparently there’s some outfit that licenses its cookie-cutter marketing plan to anyone willing to promote their dubious wares through Google ads.
After I explained nature of “The Answers” to this blog’s gracious owner, she understandably expressed the desire to “take them down.” For copyright infringement, an ISP Terms-of-Service violation, whatever legal or other action might stop the cruel exploitation of her HG sisters. My initial reaction was the same. After some consideration, however, my lawyer-brain concluded that such a course of action would be futile. The perpetrator appears to be in another country. There are myriad issues regarding fair use and what information is in the public domain. While I do not doubt that some meritorious claim could be asserted, the costs of litigation are prohibitive. And given that there are the countless cancers cures swimming around the internet without the slightest challenge, it is doubtful that any ISP or prosecuting authority would be interested in pursuing action on behalf of the victims of a disease that much of even the medical community ignores.
So what is the answer to The Answer? Prayer, and love. Pray that in the near future, this blog expose will pop up in every hyperemesis search that summons that deceptive Google ad. Pray that the women who search will click on this link rather than that one. Pray that they will join this community of HG friends. Love them when they do. Love them by sharing your heart, your knowledge, and every legitimate resource at your disposal to help them defeat a disease that might rob them of so much more than mere money.
Update: The document referenced in this post is no longer available, but this post is a good reminder that there will always be people out there preying on our hope and desperation. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.