Seduced to Save Lives? Marrow Registry Blasted for Using Models to Lure Donors

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(istockphoto)

(CBS) A New England bone marrow registry has a lot of 'splainin' to do after being accused of using models in short skirts and high heels to lure donors.

No word on just how effective the models were at getting people to sign up. But the New Hampshire attorney general put an end to the practice, forcing the closure of the Caitlin Raymond International Registry in the state and launching an investigation of the registry and the UMass Memorial Health Care program with which it is affiliated.

The registry had been paying a Boston-area modeling agency up to $50,000 a week for models to solicit donors at dozens of malls and at special events, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by Attorney General Michael A. Delaney.

"This conduct is outrageous and both my office and the Department of Insurance intend to vigorously investigate and review their tactics and take appropriate action," Delaney said in the statement.

And the models-for-marrow program may not have been the only funny business going on at the registry.

According to the statement, the registry has been telling consumers that the tests cost nothing but then billing insurance companies up to $4,300 per test.

The tests typically cost around $100, the Nashua Telegraph reported. They involve swabbing the inside of the cheek to collect DNA for subsequent screening. Donor marrow is used to treat leukemia and other life-threatening illnesses.

The models  were hand-picked by the UMass marketing director, the state's Consumer Protection Bureau chief, Jim Boffetti, told the Manchester Union Leader. The models - all in their twenties - were told how to dress and behave, and some may have given out their phone numbers as a way of encouraging men to be tested. They wore black high heels, black skirts, and white lab coats, the Concord Monitor reported.

"Picture this," Delaney told the Union Leader. "The modeling agency is sending photographs to the marketing director at UMass for personal selection of those models that are going to go recruit donors to save people's lives. It's unbelievable."