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It’s amazing the things we will do for a free meal.

The card came in the mail a few days ago — a free steak dinner at a local restaurant (with options for walleye or parmesan chicken if I proved to be a picky eater).

Of course, there was a catch, the old aphorism concerning the illusory nature of a free lunch apparently extends to the evening meal. There would be a reasonably brief presentation that would allow the respondents to determine “if stem cell therapy is right for you.”

Jerome Christenson

Winona Daily News Deputy Editor Jerome Christenson

Yup, cutting-edge medicine offered like an after-dinner mint.

Now birth records are public information and it doesn’t take a latter-day Sherlock Holmes to determine where I live, so I’m not surprised these enterprising folks were able to put me in their marketing crosshairs.

It’s no secret that I’m of an age where the morning’s aches and pains are an ongoing reminder that puberty is an ever more distant memory and that each of us has but a short, short time to dance here on the green side of the sod.

So a postcard promising both a free meal and respite from the reminders of our inevitable mortality makes for a pretty tempting offer.

It’s moments like this we are well reminded of the trope church-goers repeat on a weekly basis: “Lead us not into temptation…”

For a good number of years I’ve maintained a regular appointment schedule with my local doctor. On every visit he greets me with “How are you?” then proceeds to answer that question for me — sometimes in unwelcome detail.

Over the years he’s prescribed a variety of potions to counteract bad habits, physiological design flaws, and maleficent microbial invaders — most of which have been most effective in achieving their intended end. How they’ve done it, I really haven’t a clue.

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Blame that on lack of study and effort on my part.

I never made it to medical school. I don’t peruse JAMA or The Lancet for recreational reading and confronted with multisyllabic, greco-latinate terminologies I, like most folks, tend to wince and turn the page.

Science, real science, is hard. Still, I understand that locked up in that near-impenetrable prose is the information and supporting evidence that objectively indicates if stem cell therapy — or any other medical procedure, practice or prescription — “is right for you.”

It probably doesn’t involve a come-on dinner and sales pitch like aluminum siding or fly-by-night investment plans.

The purveyors of snake oil have long preyed on the fact that we are a hopeful, gullible lot. Given a simple, seemingly plausible explanation to a complex issue our impulse is to gulp like a sunfish after a nightcrawler – oblivious to the attached hook, line and sinker.

The pitch works. The product, not so much.

So when the chia pet craze went bust, chia seeds became the new miracle food, though no one, presumably, wanted to sprout green curly fur.

Good old apple cider vinegar is touted as a tonic guaranteed to restore and preserve vibrant good health — and although its preservative properties when applied to a cucumber are unquestioned, the anatomical similarity between a human being and a bread and butter pickle are somewhat in doubt.

And stem cells sold like siding? Does Mayo run an “April Appendectomy Month” sale? How about a “buy one, get one” offer on hip replacements? Free EKG with every colonoscopy?

Is a prefrontal lobotomy right for you?

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