Do me a favour?

I have heard that Ms. Tinkham has died of her cancer as of 3:30 pm PST. I am deeply saddened by this, more so because this death was, in all probability, preventable.

I enjoy blogging, I really do. However, sometimes it’s a struggle to find the inspirado to write. Since I started this for serious back in March, I’ve posted at least one new story every morning at 6 am (Vancouver time). Mondays I have reached deep into my psyche and pulled out a completely organic essay (what I’ve taken to privately referring to as my “think pieces”), and Fridays I have scoured the interwebs to find you a pithy or humorous video to entertain you.

I have yet to miss an update (I came perilously close this past Friday, but I still got it out).

I love blogging, but on those days when I just don’t feel like writing, I am spurred on by the thought that somewhere out there in the world, there is someone (maybe even a few someones) who read these things and get something from them. Maybe it’s just mindless entertainment as part of your morning routine, maybe it means something more than that; regardless, the thought of you going “where the fuck is today’s article?” is what chains my ass to the desk and gets my fingers a-typin’.

I say all this because the time has come for me to ask a favour from you. Over at Respectful Insolence, Orac has put out this plea:

I’m still perturbed that a cancer quack was able to convince a woman who had everything to live for that he could cure her of her breast cancer without surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. I’m still perturbed at this particular cancer quack’s attitude, where he tried to claim that he didn’t know the woman who is dying, Kim Tinkham, and imply that her cancer recurred because didn’t follow his regimen carefully enough, that she had stopped living the quack’s “alkaline diet.” I thought of my mother-in-law, who died in 2009 of metastatic breast cancer, and watching her decline.

And then I thought of Oprah Winfrey and her role in what ultimately happened to Kim Tinkham.

Oprah needs to know what can happen when people choose quackery and woo instead of effective science-based medicine.

Because I know how hard Orac works to get his lengthy and in-depth analyses of science-based medicine and medical skepticism out there, I was happy to contribute my voice to what I hope is a chorus of people saying the same thing: people who give bad advice about medicine have to live with the consequences of their words. This Kim Tinkham woman was told that cancer was an “acid” that was caused by feelings of resentment – a steamier pile of bullshit there has never been. Based on this faulty premise, the exposure and publicity that she got on the Oprah show, and Oprah’s whole-hearted endorsement of nonsense like The Secret, Ms. Tinkham eschewed conventional treatment and attempted to “alkalize” her body to get rid of cancer.

To be sure, with a stage III cancer she had roughly 50% odds of succumbing to the disease even with conventional treatment. However, that is a full 50% better chance than if she just slowly lets the cancer kill her. If we found some other treatment that improved your odds of surviving cancer by 50%, we’d be trumpeting it from the skies. Ms. Tinkham, with encouragement from Oprah, decided to opt instead for witch-doctor treatment from a quack who thinks that cancer is made up of acid. I have, with my own two eyes, seen a cancerous tumour – it looks nothing at all like acid. Furthermore, I have seen positive, happy, well-balanced people die of cancer – to suggest that it’s their own fault for having too much “resentment” is a disgusting insult to anyone who has seen a loved one die of cancer.

And so I am asking you, my dear readers, for whom I work so hard to provide regular (and hopefully interesting) content 5 days a week, to do me this favour: please write in to the Oprah show and tell them that it’s not okay to encourage vulnerable sick people to slowly commit suicide under the “care” of people who would exploit them first, then blame them later when their voodoo “cures” don’t work.

Please also feel free to copy and paste your submission to Oprah in the comments section.

Like this article? Write in to the Oprah Show then, dammit!

P.S. WordPress helpfully tracks the number of clicks the links that I post yield, so if you read this and don’t write the show, I’ll know.


  1. Pat Dixon says

    I’ve just linked this to my Facebook page… and said I’d be giving Oprah a piece of my mind as my cousins died the same way. Science isn’t perfect, but it’s way ahead of voodoo! The battle needs more fighters!

  2. Angela Squires says

    Posted to Orac’s blog and working on my letter to Oprah; she is a menace to society.

    “Then, let’s not forget Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey, after all, rewarded Tinkham’s decision to use The Secret as justification for rejecting science-based therapy and choosing quackery. While it is true that during her interview with Tinkham Oprah appeared distinctly uncomfortable that The Secret had lead Tinkham to reject effective therapy for her breast cancer: Shockingly, Oprah actually sounds almost reasonable here. Almost. Too bad the shock of being confronted by someone who used woo that Oprah promoted instead of effective therapy didn’t keep Oprah from later doing things like promoting faith healers like John of God.”
    Oprah Winfrey should be financing Tinkham’s palliative care, compensating her family financially for their loss and actively promoting science-based medicine, not quackery. Celebrities must take responsibility for their actions because people are so influenced by their statements and validation of ideas like alternative medicine and the Secret. When it comes to life-threatening disease nobody should be influenced by a celebrity, authoritarian figure and so on to eschew science-based treatment. I would have died long ago if I took people like Oprah seriously. Orac, I shall be consulting with Crommunist on what I plan to do about this. I am a bilateral mastectomy, a big-mouthed Brit living in Canada, Media savvy and utterly appalled by the fate of Kim Tinkham.

  3. says

    “Coming here I was not entirely sure of what to write, but the blatant hypocrisy of your slogan “Live your best life” has certainly spurred me on. I should point out that I bear no great or broad animosity towards the Oprah Show, my disgust simply stems from one particular death for which Oprah must claim some responsibility.

    I’m talking, of course, about Kim Tinkham. She died, in pain and with negligible hope of recovery, because she believed the Oprah Show. She trusted you, and you chose to lead her astray by promoting quackery and pseudo-science. Why? Why would you do that, when there are people genuinely suffering with their lives on the line? You have great responsibility as the demagogue of these people – YOU are answerable for the misinformation and false hope you spread to them.

    I hope with Kim Tinkham’s death you can see the consequences of your unquestioning promotion of pseudo-science and woo. Perhaps it’s time to think of your audience as people, rather than squealing voices to sell shit to.”

    The end.

    I got bogged down in writing my first ever angry letter to a public figure – it’s a massive rush, isn’t it? But I did want to say that I greatly appreciate your writing – I come here a lot and always come away with a new perspective to consider.


  4. Angela Squires says

    Dear Oprah:

    I appreciate your motives were not malicious but a woman has died because of your endorsement of the Secret and non-science based treatment for breast cancer. Kim Tinkham believed you and your populist show, deciding to adopt alternative treatment by Robert O. Young, a non-medical Doctor, for her 2007 diagnosed Stage 3 breast cancer. Like me Kim did not want the disfigurement of surgery, discomfort of radiation or the poison of chemotherapy. I am alive, Kim is dead. Kim never had the opportunity of a scientifically documented 50/50 chance at life because of you promoting woo. I ask that you rescind your endorsement of the Secret, all non-science based medical treatments and encourage people to rely on recognized, proven treatments which while not perfect are the best we can offer as imperfect beings striving to help our fellow humanity.

    Kindest regards, Angela Squires

  5. says

    Here’s my letter!

    Dear Ms. Winfrey,

    Yesterday afternoon, a woman by the name of Kim Tinkham died of breast cancer at 3:30 pm. Breast cancer is among the most deadly of cancers, claiming almost 40,000 lives each year in the United States alone.

    In Ms. Tinkham’s case, however, there was a chance she could have survived. A chance that she was persuaded not to take in part because of a quack cure promoted on your program by one Robert O. Young. As Ms. Tinkham’s cancer spread to the rest of her body and she refused the radiation therapy that would have given her at least a 50% chance of survival, Mr. Young’s only response was to blame Kim Tinkham’s inevitable decline on not following his “alkaline diet” more strictly.

    There is no question that Young’s presence on your program gave him a veneer of legitimacy that encouraged Kim Tinkham and others like her to eschew tested, scientific medical treatment in favor of quackery. Now a woman is dead because of it, and you, Ms. Winfrey, have played a role in allowing her death to happen. I hope you will consider apologizing for your actions.

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