This originally appeared as a column in the November 3 print and online editions of the North Bay / Nippissing News, the weekly newspaper I’ve been writing for recently. I’ve been recovering from some fairly serious illnesses over the past few years, so I haven’t been able to write professionally. At least not often. This was my third column with NBNN… so far so good. That is my arm in the photo. A few weeks of generic Polysporin and gauze bandages later and it’s a nice, healthy, virginal pink scar.
Steve Jobs was a lot of things, apparently one of them was foolish.
Jobs, with some help, created Apple Computers and turned it into one of the most important technological forces in history. His genius was his ability to take an existing product, like a tablet computer, and change it’s interface so it became something else. Something convenient and beautiful. Basically his genius lay in squaring the base of a taco and charging us $599 for the privilege of ownership.
But, since his recent death from a case of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in 2003, we have found out that with his genius came intense stupidity.
Shortly before his death, in a confession to his biographer, Jobs admitted his nearly obsessive embrace of alternative medicines to treat cancer, ultimately led to a premature death.
The type of cancer Jobs was diagnosed with in 2003 was treatable, and survivable. But instead of seeking out care from a modern hospital, he spent months insisting on relying on basic quackery, health guru’s, spiritualists and the authors of self-help books. He made the decision to treat the cancer primarily with dietary choices.
By the time he accepted help the cancer had spread to other organs. He had waited too long, he told his biographer, before getting treatment that could have saved his life.
So, how can Canadians learn from the premature death of one of the truly great captains of industry? By following the example he set when he realized he was killing himself by not using modern health care.
By seeing a doctor who graduated from a reputable university based in a real country.
According to Health Canada more than 70% of Canadians use some form of natural health products regularly. These include nutritional supplements, probiotics, traditional Chinese medicine, vitamins, herbal products, and homeopathy.
Nutritional supplements are great, if what you’re looking for is a placebo effect with no medical documentation to support the claims either of the manufacturer or the recommendations of the person handing them to you.
There are literally thousands of products in Canadian stores promising, sometimes in the vaguest of terms, a healthier life. Some, like folic acid to prevent birth defects, are vital to our health. But they’ve been tested, there have been university trials proving the importance of calcium.
Just to have a basic regulatory framework in place, in 2004, the Natural Health Product Regulations (NHPR) were created under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act to regulate these products. But the new regulations meant only testing these products for manufacturing quality and safety standards.
There’s nothing in the NHPR forcing manufacturers to prove the effectiveness of these products.
So Suzanne Somers is free to get obscenely rich selling books marketing untested, unproven products in this country, and people like Kevin Trudeau can go on television and hock books telling people specific types of calcium farmed from seashells can beat cancer.
These books are poured over by people who would otherwise mock the idea of an aphrodisiac made from powdered tiger penis, but will then lecture you about the healing properties of a faux copper bracelet, or St. John’s Wart, or Lithium oratate.
People who can explain the details of the thousand years of ‘traditional’ Chinese medicine, based on herbs and the mystics of Earth-power, are generally unaware Canadians live longer than the Chinese, both our infant and maternal mortality rate are significantly lower, and Canada has never sent a potential plague into the world.
Of course this isn’t a panic, or an epidemic, it’s just one American industrialist who was, like thousands of Canadians, sucked into the unregulated and illusionary world of ‘alternative medicine’.
So be like the reasonable Jobs and embrace your inner MRI.