I was truly sad to hear the news that Steve had passed away, for he was truly unique and has actually changed the world and made it a far better place, countless numbers of lives have been touched and moved by all he did. There is much I would like to write on that topic, but so many others have already done it, so I shall just briefly applaud a life that was truly well lived. He is quoted as having said …
“Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me”
Now that he truly did do.
Here are some links of remembrance:
What is in many ways tragic about his passing is that perhaps it need not have happened so soon. When first diagnosed in 2004 with a cancerous tumor in his pancreas, is was a considerable worry because it has a poor prognosis, partly because the cancer usually causes no symptoms early on, and so can advance undetected and leads to a locally advanced or metastatic disease at time of diagnosis. Treatment usually depends on the stage of the cancer. However, Steve’s diagnosis was not so gloomy because he had a rare, far less aggressive type known as islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.
This is the point where things truly become tragic.
For nine months, Steve rejected recommendations for evidence-based medical intervention and instead opted for a special alternative medicine diet for which there is not one single jot of evidence that it would help. Why did he do this?, well perhaps part of what makes him unique is that he makes his own rules and has always resisted the idea of flowing with the tide and so the same traits that make him a great CEO drove him to put his own life at risk like this. Steve, both a Buddhist and vegetarian, was also skeptical of mainstream medicine.
Would those nine months have made a difference? We don’t really know, but what we do know is that if the tumor had been surgically removed earlier, then his prognosis would be potentially a lot more promising: the vast majority of those who have the operation survive at least ten years, so the probability is that if he had not delayed a proven treatment and gone down the unproven “Alternative Medicine” path, then he would still be with us today … now that makes me really sad.
Folks please … medicine is the stuff that has been proven to work, alternative medicine is the unproven and untested stuff, so stick with what we know works. Apparently when an Alternative Medicine treatment is tested and found to actually work, then they have a special name for it … that name is “medicine”.
In the end, I can only feel deep sorrow at the loss of Steve and wish he could still be with us. This all motivates me to continue to speak out against the peddlers of woo that thrive all around us.
Updates (8th Oct)
- I botched the date of his initial Diagnosis, it was 2003, not (as I stated above) 2004.
- There is a rather interesting article here (from 2008) by Orac where he writes …
What Steve Jobs needed was for a doctor to get in his face and give him a dressing down of the sort that Jobs gives his employees, saying: “I know you’re a genius when it comes to industrial design of computers, making technology products that people love, and running an animation studio. I know you’ll be remembered as a giant in the history of computing, digital music, and technology. Unfortunately, none of that means you know squat about medicine. Diet, herbs, and the other woo you’re interested in will not stop this tumor. Nothing will heal it except cold, hard, surgical steel. Moreover, it’s puzzling to me where all that critical thinking you put into designing computers and running your business went to when it comes to your health. But, hey, it’s your choice. You can gamble that your plan won’t delay your therapy to the point where I can’t do anything to cure you anymore. Or you can listen to the scientific consensus and have the surgery. Your choice.”
Of course, Jobs probably would have ignored it or even ranted back, but it’s something he needed to hear, and all of his employees and friends are too intimidated by him to give it to him straight.
- A few folks have commented to me, “How could he be so stupid, I thought he was smart“. Make no mistake, smart people (some very smart people) can at times believe some crazy stuff, we are all prone to that. For example Nobel Prize winning chemist Linus Pauling became convinced that large doses of Vitamin C could cure cancer, despite the total lack of evidence. Peter Duesberg remains convinced that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.
Update-2 (16th Oct)
Dr David Gorski of Science Based Medicine writes a long but very informative article all about this …
One has to be very, very careful about making this sort of argument [that the 9 months of woo led to an early death]. For one thing, it could not have been apparent that it was “too late” back in 2004, when it became clear that Jobs’ dietary manipulations weren’t working. For another thing, we don’t know how large the tumor was, whether it progressed or simply failed to shrink over those nine months, and by how much it increased in size, if increase in size it did. Again, I hope that information will be revealed in the Jobs’ biography; such data would go a long way in clarifying just how much, if at all, Jobs might have compromised his chance for cure by delaying. Right now, we just don’t know enough to make even a good guesstimate.
So, is it possible, even likely, that Jobs compromised his chances of survival? Yes. Is it definite that he did? No, it’s not
I suspect he may be right, and so I need to consider revising my position on this topic. As with all his articles, it is a long read, but does provide a lot of insight (he is a deeply experienced and well-respected Doctor).