Steve Jobs, Alternative Medicine and Cancer

Did alternative medicine kill Steve Jobs? This question has been circulating around the internet since the visionary co-founder of Apple died on October 5. Ramzi Amri, a research associate at Harvard Medical School who says he has been studying the type of cancer Jobs had for a year and a half, has argued that the type of pancreatic tumor Jobs had was “treatable” and that by initially relying on alternative medical treatments, he cut short his chances for survival. Others including Brian Dunning in a post entitled  A Lesson in Treating Illness have decried Jobs’s decision to treat a terminal disease “with woo rather than with medicine.”

The publication tomorrow, October 24, of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs could provide more information. In a Sunday evening 60 Minutes interview, Isaacson has said that Jobs came to regret his initial decision to treat a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas that was detected in 2004 with an alternative diet instead of medically recommended surgery. The Apple CEO — “so used to swimming against the tide of popular opinion” — had been intrigued by Eastern mysticism as a young man and, according to an ABC News report, “believed in alternative herbal treatments.” An AP report also says that Jobs ate a vegan diet and used “acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic.” He was also “influenced by a doctor who ran a clinic that advised juice fasts, bowel cleansings and other unproven approaches .. before finally having surgery in July 2004.”

Orac, a scientist who blogs at Respectful Insolence on ScienceBlogs, has long countered, and debunked, the  ”woo” of alternative medical treatments with science. He has previously written about Jobs’s 2009 liver transplant. In weighing the available evidence about whether Jobs’s “flirtation” with alternative medicine might have killed him, Orac writes:

…it appears likely that Jobs did indeed decrease his chances of survival through his nine month sojourn into woo. On the other hand, it still remains very unclear by just how much he decreased his chances of survival. My best guesstimate is that, thanks to the indolent nature of functional insulinomas and lead time bias, it was probably only by a relatively small percentage. This leads me to point out that accepting that Jobs’ choice probably decreased somewhat his chances of of surving his cancer is a very different thing than concluding that “alternative medicine killed Steve Jobs.” The first statement is a nuanced assessment of probabilities; the latter statement is black-and-white thinking…

What is revealed from these accounts about Jobs’s initial treatment of his cancer with alternative remedies is that “even someone as brilliant as Steve Jobs can be prone to denial, and, yes, even magical thinking.” It’s possible that Jobs could have had what Orac terms a “medical reality distortion field that allowed him to come to think that he might be able to reverse his cancer with diet plus various ‘alternative” modalities.”‘

Others have  used the term ”reality distortion field” in a “part joking, part derogatory, part admiring” sense to describe Jobs’s “combination of personal charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, and persistence” that enabled him to persuade and convince anyone, from engineers to Wynton Marsalis, about Apple products. It might be possible that the very qualities that enabled Jobs to make Apple and its products what they are — to be the innovator the world will remember  him as — also contributed to his demise. But with cancer, “biology is king and queen,” and there is only so much we humans — even visionaries like Jobs whose insights have radically changed our lives — can do to fight that biology.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. “About the dead, say nothing except good.” What we can say is that, after those initial months using alternative treatments, Jobs sought out science-based treatments for his cancer and certainly the best available. It is commendable that, as Isaacson said on 60 Minutes, Jobs wanted to inform the world  about his regret regarding his decision not to have been operated on sooner; about having made the wrong decision. How many public figures are willing to say that they have made a mistake?

Knowing this, I feel even more sorrow that Steve Jobs is gone.


Related Care2 Coverage

Steve Jobs Was an Arab American

Thank You, Steve Jobs: iPads and Autism

The Religion of Apple


Photo by philosopher


Helen C.
Helen C.3 years ago

Thanks for the great tips :)

For anyone here that would link some more info on natural health i suggest you take a look Here its the best place on reddit for info and videos all about natural health and holistic wellness. check it out

Ulli W.
Ulli W.4 years ago

short poem of EUGEN ROTH (1895-1976)
Was bringt den Doktor um sein Brot?
a) die Gesundheit, b) der Tod.
Drum hält der Arzt, auf daß er lebe,
Uns zwischen beiden in der Schwebe.


What bars a doctor from his bread?
a) you are healthy
b) you are dead
So he must try – to live not lean,
to keep you always in between!

Gwendolyn K.
Gwendolyn Krupa4 years ago

Praying for peace and love in our family.

Gwendolyn K.
Gwendolyn Krupa4 years ago

Everyone should be free to seek healing in their own way, Natural herbs, vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements and homeopathy are valid choices. Eating clean, whole foods, drinking pure water, exercise, sunshine, rest; these are options, too. Some seek healing from a higher power or some type of meditation. I believe the Lord still heals, but each person has a right to choose these with or instead of surgery, chemo, radiation, etc. To say that Alternative Medicine killed him is ridiculous! Pancreatic Cancer is not particularly curable by any human means. One could equally say that conventional medicine killed him!

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Exactly, ".." was a touching story on the news last night about a 38-yr-old lady who met her soul mate online, they married and for a long time, tried to have children. She finally became pregnant (thru the use of fertility drugs) and gave birth. Two years later, she conceived again (naturally) was was ecstatic. When 5 months pregnant, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent "chemo" (after doing a lot of homework and asking questions, multiple doctors consulted), and gave birth to a healthy baby girl, then had radiation to get rid of the rest of the cancer. After 5 years, she's cancer free. Her husband was killed in a one-car accident last week, going to the store to get catfood. I was crying when I watched this.

Who knows how many cases of brain cancer will be diagnosed in 10, 15 or 20 years after this generation of 4G cell phone users and I-pod fanatics are exposed long enough? Remember, Steve Jobs had been exposed since he was a college student, and in a big way. He didn't just make a random call once in awhile, or stay at reasonable distances from a desktop monitor. Back then, emissions were much higher and the effects were not even known.

Ingrid D.4 years ago

Radiation is `also' a cause for cancer and everyone knows this. But not everyone knows that `non-ionising' radiation as emitted by mobile phones, wifi etc has a similar effect as radiation from XRays according to Prof.Heyo Eckel, a German Radiologist and Vice Chair of the German Medical Association ( read his translated interview on There is a huge amount of scientific research by `independent' scientists out there which supports this view and several Oncologists have had the courage to speak out, just to be discredited by the `Cancer Research `Industry'. Cancer is Big Business. I am extremely surprised that Steve Jobs, such an intelligent man, never knew that his IPhone could cause many people to suffer Cancer. I am not saying that it caused `his' Cancer, but if he used it whilst trying to recover, he wasted his time on any treatment, conventional or orthodox. Everyone vulnerable to Cancer or already suffering from it would make a great mistake using a mobile phone. The industry tries hard to cover up the truth and as soon as we have a study coming out proving health effects, they dig out some `industry funded', and in the case of the latest Danish Study `old' research to convince us all is well. It is unbelievable that even the British Medical Journal lowered their standards by supporting a study which claims mobile phones do NOT cause cancer by `excluding' all business users of mobiles in the research. If the shoe was on the other foot the mobile phone lobby

Gemma M.

Fact is, more people recover from cancer nowadays than in the past. Is it because of "conventional" or because of "alternative" medicine"? I, personally, trust the first one. At least, it researches, and things proven not useful (such as bloodletting) are abandoned.

Green Road A.
Eric S.4 years ago

The judgmental attitude of alternative medicine is so easy to spot.. It is what the Big Pharma industry and medical community has used since the Dark Ages, when they were bloodletting and using caustic chemicals and other poisons as 'treatment' for symptoms, while making fun of herbalists and other healers who actually dealt with ROOT CAUSES, and reversed dis-eases that the blood letters knew nothing about.

That dynamic has NEVER changed since then. In many dis-eases, the symptoms can be managed by drugs, surgery and radiation, but the ROOT CAUSES are ignored and prevention is denied a chance, because PROFITS rule over all.

Science is all about discovering the root causes of problems. But in the case of medicine, they are ignored and denied for the most part. Only alternative health practicioners really dig into root causes, which often lie in the emotional, mental, social, environmental, dietary, and spiritual realm.

So when the apologists of 'modern' medicine come out of the woodwork to attack all other health systems around the world that have thousands and thousands of years of history, investigation, and proof of effective use and results, I have to wonder why such a supposedly 'scientific' community can be so closed minded. Could it be, that it is really all for the almighty Dollar?

The answers are there, for those who ask and inquire with an open mind, the door will open and the answers will come...

It may pay for the author to watch Dr. Oz, who is

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Oh, and Jane? I thought you hated "old, bald" guys? Steve Jobs was ONLY 56, but far too old for you, and he was losing his hair. However, he WAS rich. Maybe that makes a difference to you? Sorry, sweetie, but your flip-flopping, hypocritical, can't say the same thing twice stuff is just getting to me. Read the article, and try to address the premise of whether or not alternative medicine or approaches are viable options for anyone, especially those with usually fatal forms of cancer, INSTEAD of using in conjunction WITH conventional treatments.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Aaah, geez, Jane, your last sentence probably is the first truthful one you've posted in Care.2! Let's see, you started out saying you were 60, then changed that to 49, and now you admit being 66 years old? Why should a single other remark out of your mouth or from your fingers be given ANY credibility? You have told two completely different stories about what you did "for a living", and trust me, neither one would provide you with "all the money in the world", which you've also stated a few times as having available.

A bit of an "FYI" for you..........."When an individual has cancer, the ultimate outcome will always be the same because at this point there is no "cure" for cancer and everybody who has it dies".........everyone dies at some point in time, with or without having had cancer. There is cures for many cancers, and maybe you should put down that bottle long enough to talk to a few who have lived for decades after their cancers have been "gone". There are thousands of "types" of cancers, some highly curable, others just "treatable" and some, like pancreatic cancer, has a poor prognosis.