What Killed Steve Jobs?

October 25, 2011

Brit Trogen


A war is being waged in the world of science, ignited by the recent passing of Steve Jobs. It's an age-old battle: conventional medicine versus alternative treatments, and it started with a single post to the question and answer forum Quora, by cancer expert Ramzi Amri: Why did Steve Jobs choose not to effectively treat his cancer?


The question, and its answer, set off a firestorm of debate. According to Amri, on receiving his diagnosis, a relatively mild cancer in comparison to the "dreaded pancreatic adenocarcinoma," Steve postponed surgical treatment for nine months, opting instead to undergo alternative treatments. This, in Amri's reasoning (which I recommond reading in its entirety), was tantamount to slow suicide, allowing the cancer to take hold that would eventually take his life.


It's a heart-wrenching prospect. But it didn't take long before for others to start pitching in with arguments that while Amri's scenario was theoretically possible, no one yet knows the details of Jobs' illness, and it's therefore impossible to determine how much of a difference nine months delay might have caused, if any, in his chances of survival.


Later, however, in an interview with 60 Minutes, Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson revealed that the decision to try alternative treatments was one that Steve strongly regretted, and that in fact, by the time he did go in for surgery, the cancer had spread to tissues around the pancreas (Another more tempered view on the saga here). 


Having followed this story from its beginning, I've found myself feeling incredibly sad and angry, because for all the times that someone claims that alternative treatments can do no harm, there are hundreds of cases just like this one. And if this story proves anything, it's that even the most rational and brilliant minds can be lured in at their most vulnerable by utterly false claims.



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