Quackery claims another victim

If you’re a regular podcast listener, you might remember a show I did a few weeks back on The Lorne Trottier Science Symposium, and I talked at length about one speaker, Dr. David Gorski (who looks a lot like the guy with glasses from ER) who’s busy fighting superstition on his blog, Science-Based Medicine. David specializes in breast cancer, and over the years has constantly battled the dangers of pseudoscience and quackery. He sees the direct consequence of people listening to “The Secret” and other junk ideas rather than medical doctors.

The latest victim of this terrible and tragic new phenomenon of trying to use “positive thinking” to fight malignant tumors is a woman by the name of Kim Tinkham. She was diagnosed in February 2007 with stage 3 breast cancer, and every doctor she talked to gave her the same diagnosis: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It’s not a pleasant process, but the odds of survival were still relatively good.

Instead of opting for surgery (I still like David’s “nothing heals like surgical steel” line), Kim watched the movie “The Secret”, and fell for their pathetic “think positive and you can have shit” shtick: she even appeared on Oprah┬áto explain her decision:

I watched The Secret for the first time back in 2006. Shortly after The Secret aired on Oprah, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was shocked, but most of all, I became mad. Not because I had cancer, but because most of the doctors that I’ve spoken to -three so far- have all said that surgery was absolutely necessary within the next month. I would have to undergo a partial radical mastectomy of the right breast, followed by treatment. After much thought, I’ve decided to heal myself.

To be fair, Oprah did try to convince her to seek real medical treatment, but backed down a little when Kim suggested this was a life affirming decision on her part. Besides, “The Secret” was a movie that Oprah had recommended to her female zombies, and once the genie was out of the bottle, it’s kind of hard to put it back.

The problem here is Kim didn’t like the reality of her diagnosis, and was particularly afraid of surgery. Instead of accepting the reality of her illness, she chose to believe the fantasies that were presented to her as facts. When countless doctors gave her the same medical advice, she searched on the fringes of alternative “medicines” until she found some opportunist piece of shit (a dick by the name of Robert Young) who made her believe diet and wishful thinking would be enough to cure her.

I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next: as the cancer continued to spread, it was eventually too much, and according to her Facebook account, she recently died. While Kim had a good change to survive her cancer had she listened to her doctors, the trendy “alternative” treatments offered by quacks and charlatans gave her the idea cures can be found in your head rather than with science based medicine. Since it’s unlikely either Oprah or Robert Young will be held accountable for their culpability in this woman making such poor life choices, it’s up to us to keep fighting the forces of irrationality and pseudoscience.

Comments (6)

  • avatar

    Kevin V

    I would say tweet this post with #OprahZombies

  • avatar


    I know a woman who tried to heal her breast cancer without medicine – I think she used herbs/crystals/energy. The strange thing is… she was a NURSE! You’d think that if anyone understood the need for medicine supported by evidence, it would be someone who spent her life practicing medicine. She left behind a significantly older man she had been living with and caring for for many years. She was a lovely woman, but I can’t understand her choice. If it’s one thing doctors are good at, its curing you when you are really, really sick. Have the flu? Fine, deal with it yourself. Have cancer? See a fucking doctor.

  • avatar


    And the Darwin award goes to . . .

  • avatar


    I got the H1N1 and common flu shot earlier this year. After having administered the shot, I asked the nurse when she got hers. She said she didn’t trust shots and would rather deal with it on her own. I told her she doesn’t need to do it for herself, she needs to do it for the elderly, the children, and those with weak immune systems. She shrugged.

  • avatar


    What not one of you seems to understand is that the reason she became worse and actually died is not because “The Secret” method doesn’t work, it was because she didn’t believe *enough*!

    All sarcasm aside, this is truly a horrible thing. To invest so much in the belief that by mere thought one can survive something such as this, yet not only does it end in failure of the goal (to heal ones self), but that reason is circumvented instead of attempting to use modern medicine to increase the odds of longevity, is truly a lesson that I hope people like her will learn. Vicariously we should be apt to learn.

  • avatar

    fred johnson

    Evolution is action perhaps?

    The stupid and gullible are being selected against in this age of powerful medicine and social complexity….

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