There is no doubt in my mind that Robert O. Young is among the worst cancer quacks I have ever encountered. I’ve never been able to figure out how he manages to continue to practice after over 20 years, given the egregiousness of his quackery. Indeed, I was overjoyed when I learned back in January when finally—finally!—I got to see Young in a prison jumpsuit being hauled before a judge after having been arrested and charged with 18 felony counts of grand theft and practicing medicine without a license, as well as administering intravenous treatments in an unlicensed facility.
As I noted at the time, the arrest actually revealed a highly problematic issue with how physicians and those who would practice medicine are regulated. The reason Young was finally tripped up and arrested was because, authorities allege, he went beyond just diet to treat cancer and had administered intravenous medications to his customers (I refuse to call them his patients) at his Rancho del Sol, an avocado and grapefruit ranch in Valley Center, California that he’s turned into a quack retreat called the pH Miracle Center, where desperate patients with cancer and other serious diseases pay him large sums of money to seek healing from his “pH Miracle” lifestyle and diet. In other words, it was just fine with authorities (or at least not illegal) as long as Young just recommended dietary modifications and used weasel words to convince them that he wasn’t treating cancer or claiming to be able to cure it, but as soon as one of his
marks clients was willing to complain about his administering intravenous “treatments,” whatever they were, the authorities acted because he was both practicing medicine without a license and committing fraud. Never mind that he had been practicing medicine without a license by claiming specific “alkalinizing” diets could cure cancer and, in fact, a variety of other diseases based on a utterly pseudoscientific twaddle and getting his marks clients to pay large sums of money to come to his ranch and partake of these “cures.” Never mind that his quackery has resulted in at least one death. How is that any less fraud, at least? But what do I know? I’m not a prosecuting attorney. I’m just a real doctor and scientist, unlike Young, who, his claims to be a scientist notwithstanding, is about as far from a scientist as one can imagine.
In any case, it’s been five months since Young was arrested. I was curious if there had been any developments in the case. I realize that the law can move very slowly, but I was surprised to find very little when I started Googling. One thing I learned is that he hasn’t stopped promoting his quackery. For example, this post on his blog shows him hawking his products at the Natural Products Expo West at the Anahiem Convention Center in March. Just last month he was promoting the case of Josie Nunez as an example of one of his “miracle cures.” It’s a case I analyzed a year ago and found to be less than impressive. Here, he’s promoting ultrasound to detect cancer, which is odd because we already use ultrasound to detect, in particular, breast cancer. It’s also odd, given that he touts how the tumor is not the problem in cancer. That doesn’t stop him from promoting breast thermography, which is not ready for prime time and in the hands of naturopaths and alternative medicine doctors, pure quackery. Here he is, advertising classes in the quackery known as live blood cell analysis and something called the “International Alkaline Water Association Certification Classes and Watermark Salesperson Training,” the latter no doubt meant to train people to sell things to make him money. Not only does he charge hundreds of dollars for each class, but they’re scheduled all the way through to the end of the year.
That’s all when he’s not promoting his “Functionally-Structured Alkaline Water Kiosks” and receiving awards from the International Association of Colon Hydrotherapy.
In other words, it appears to be business as usual at Rancho Del Sol, although one of his posts did amuse me. It’s a post in which he quackjacks a legitimate scientific study to make it sound as though it supports his “research.” Basically, it’s a study of breast cancer gene expression regulation by DNA methylation and how normal tissues silence specific genes that contribute to cancer. Young hilariously concludes:
According to Dr. Robert O. Young, a cancer research scientist at the pH Miracle Medical Center in Valley Center, California, "the way we have found to silence the tissue-specific genes in breast cancer is to saturate the tissues with alkaline fluids at a pH of 9.5 and an oxidative reduction potential of -250mV. The way to express the tissue-specific genes that cause breast cancer is to saturate the tissues with acidic fluids with a pH of 5 or less and an oxidative reduction potential or +250 or greater."
As I’ve said, hilarious. At least, it is to me. It wouldn’t be if I were one of the scientists who actually did the study.
So far, I was striking out. I did find this interview with Young from about a month after his arrest, which finds him defiant and full of nonsensical pseudoscience, his usual condition. There’s only one thing that sort of rings true on first reading, but then really doesn’t on a second read:
"I swear to God, from my mouth to God's ears, that's the last thing I would do is practice medicine," said Young. "The reason why is because number one, I don't believe in it, and number two, the reason I don't believe in it is because it's a treatment protocol to deal with symptoms rather than underlying causes."
Of course, if Young isn’t practicing medicine, why is he touting all these patients who, he claims, cured themselves of cancer using his methods? Why is he so anxious to produce the appearance of a legitimate scientist? He even goes so far as to proclaim his quackery as “The New Biology.” His weasel words don’t change the conclusion that he’s trying to treat people:
"My main underlying theory has two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is the human body is alkaline in its design. The second hypothesis is that all functions, from breathing to thinking to moving, produce acidic waste products, if not eliminated, will cause sickness and disease," said Young. "We don't treat the disease. I don't treat cancer. I don't treat diabetes. I change the environment."
Let’s just put it this way. Just because Young thinks he’s “changing the environment” doesn’t mean he’s not treating cancer. The reason is that his claim is that “changing the environment” will cure people of all sorts of diseases, cancer included. In other words, just because the underlying premise of his belief system about medicine is a symphony of pseudoscience, where he is a germ theory denialist, believes that cancerous tumors are made up of cells spoiled by acid, and viruses are “molecular acids.” He’s treating cancer and other diseases based on an utter misunderstanding of biology and physiology, but he’s treating cancer. And, no, renaming diseases as “dis-ease” doesn’t get him off the hook.
Interestingly, I learned that Young has a very powerful quack Miranda warning that he makes his clients sign before they stay at Rancho Del Sol:
In response to the DA's recent charges, Young is adamant that all his patients were made clear of his lack of medical credentials at the time they arrive by signing an admissions statement
The statement says, "I understand Dr. Robert O. Young is not a medical doctor. He is a scientist, biochemist, microbiologist, and nutritionist. And, therefore, he does not treat disease, nor does he believe in the traditional disease concept."
The entry paperwork also makes clear Young provides only education services, not diagnostics or medical treatment. He claims great success with his protocol in treating cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic ailments.
Uh, live blood cell analysis is a diagnostic modality. It’s a quack diagnostic modality, but it’s intended to diagnose all sorts of dis-eases, diseases, or whatever. Also note the contradiction. He says he’s not treating or diagnosing anything, and then he claims great success with his protocol in treating all sorts of diseases. He can claim all he wants that “I do not treat disease,” but treating disease is exactly what he is doing.
The other update I found dates back an interview Young did on Coast to Coast AM shortly after being released on bail. It’s hard to listen to, primarily because so much self-justifying bovine excrement spiced up with quackery and pseudoscience is hard to tolerate for a whole half hour. Indeed, I wanted to retch when Young claimed that the PhD he’s most proud of is his “PhD in results.” Ugh. The conspiracy mongering and persecution complex were a bit tough to stomach.
Finally, I learned that Young is going to rely on California State Bill 577 for his defense. This bill was passed and signed into law back in 2002 and was designed to regulate alternative medicine practitioners. Basically, it allows the practice of medicine without a license, as long as the practitioner provides clients with a clear statement that he is not a licensed physician, a list of services provided, and a description of training. The rationale in the text of the law is as follows, after citing an NIH report about how common the use of alternative medicine is:
The Legislature intends, by enactment of this act, to allow access by California residents to complementary and alternative health care practitioners who are not providing services that require medical training and credentials. The Legislature further finds that these nonmedical complementary and alternative services do not pose a known risk to the health and safety of California residents, and that restricting access to those services due to technical violations of the Medical Practice Act is not warranted.
With that bill, California became a quack paradise.
What the practitioner cannot do includes:
- Conducts surgery or any other procedure on another person that punctures the skin or harmfully invades the body.
- Administers or prescribes X-ray radiation to another person.
- Prescribes or administers legend drugs or controlled substances to another person.
- Recommends the discontinuance of legend drugs or controlled substances prescribed by an appropriately licensed practitioner.
- Willfully diagnoses and treats a physical or mental condition of any person under circumstances or conditions that cause or create a risk of great bodily harm, serious physical or mental illness, or death.
- Sets fractures.
- Treats lacerations or abrasions through electrotherapy.
- Holds out, states, indicates, advertises, or implies to a client or prospective client that he or she is a physician, a surgeon, or a physician and surgeon.
At the very minimum, Young appears to have recommended discontinuance of drugs, and there’s little doubt that he “willfully diagnoses and treats a physical or mental condition of any person under circumstances or conditions that cause or create a risk of great bodily harm, serious physical or mental illness, or death.” Be that as it may, what is obvious to a physician might not be obvious to a jury, given the law’s legalization of many, if not most, forms of quackery.
That’s why I feel for the San Diego prosecutor. I don’t know what his evidence is, but based on SB577, my guess is that his best bet would be to get Young on fraud charges because getting him on practicing medicine without a license is going to be hard. The California legislature made it that way 12 years ago.
Meanwhile, Robert O. Young quacks merrily along, selling his “pH Miracle Living” products:
Same as it ever was. I am amused, however, that the colon hydrotherapy toilet attachment can hold 1,000 lbs.
When will Robert O. Young be put behind bars, where he belongs? Who knows? Soon, I hope, but I fear he’ll keep quacking until the day he dies.
thanks, Orac. I need brain bleach now.
Is there anything that can be done to repeal California State Bill 577? It seems like this could go a long way to fight against the quackery.
If he's given IV's he's in clear violation of the first prohibition under state bill 577 (unless he's found some way to administer an IV without puncturing the subject's skin). Seems to me that first prohibition would also prevent acupuncturists from claiming protection under the bill.
I'm writing this with tears in my eyes because I watched that video and am laughing so hard I'm crying. I will never understand the obsession sCAMmers have with enemas but for me it's the best kind of comic "relief."
It is the sCAM practitioners that need the enemas, since they are so full of it.
I actually didn't intend to hit submit yet. The best quote from that strip is "Communicating badly and then acting smug when misunderstood is not cleverness."
Because that's what Young is doing. He's deliberately communicating badly, and then acting smug when misunderstood. He's not clever. He's a jerk.
If puncturing the skin is a violation, why is acupuncture acceptable?
So he’s trying to say “I use words differently than everybody else, so therefore I’m innocent”.
Inigo Montoya would like a word with Mr. Young.
I can understand why the prosecutor would focus on fraud charges. Fraud has a straightforward definition, and if Mr. Young has been so careless as to run afoul of that definition, it will be easy to prove that to the jury. Whereas with State Bill 577 in the mix, those charges will come to a question of which side has the better lawyer, and Mr. Young can afford good lawyers. It's not an ideal solution--shades of putting Al Capone away on tax evasion charges--but it would get Mr. Young off the streets (especially the one where Rancho del Sol is located), and I'll take what I can get here.
Out there in CA, it is getting from bad to worse. HuffPo even publishes articles from a certain Dana Ullman who describes himself as a, (are you ready for this?) "evidence-based homeopath"
Hilarity could ensue if it wasn't so tragic!
If puncturing the skin is a violation, why is acupuncture acceptable?
Acupuncture is a licensed medical specialty in California. So acupuncturists have a license to puncture the skin. Non-licensed practitioners, presumably, would be violating the law if they tried to do acupuncture.
Insane, isn't it?
If he’s given IV’s he’s in clear violation of the first prohibition under state bill 577 (unless he’s found some way to administer an IV without puncturing the subject’s skin).
Or unless he's gotten real doctors to do it, which is what he claims.
Dumb question here, but is ultrasound ever used to diagnose cancers besides breast cancer? I might have misheard but I think my sister had it to test for thyroid cancer along with some other tests.
Even if he got a real doctor to administer the IV medications, wouldn't he still run afoul of number 3 regarding prescribing? What are the legalities around that whole chain? Would he skirt that by "recommending" the real doctor prescribe it, too? Or are the substances he's injecting or causing to be injected not prescription drugs?
Acupuncture is a licensed medical specialty in California.
There is a perverse logic to this. You don't want just anybody sticking needles into patients--it might mess up their chakras, or their qi, or whatever acupuncture enthusiasts call it.
Or unless [Young]’s gotten real doctors to do it, which is what he claims.
I would be more surprised if Young couldn't find a doctor who was willing to do this. Med school loans are expensive, as is real estate in California's coastal counties. I'm sure there are doctors who can be bought for a few months' worth of school loan and/or mortgage payments. It's more likely that, if Young didn't get a real doctor to administer the IV, it was because he was either too lazy or too arrogant to make the effort to get one.
Francoise @10 -- I believe Orac has taken on Ullman before. A metaphor about fish and barrels comes to mind.
Ullman is indeed an evidence-based homeopath. Unfortunately, the evidence he cites is flimsy. In particular, it's nowhere near what one would need to overcome the fact that homeopathy is ludicrous a priori, but this doesn't bother Ullman! He's a poster child for confirmation bias.
"New and Affordable Personal Hydrocolon therapy device for colonics, enemas and douching."
Climb aboard Tiny....guaranteed to hold 1,000 pounds body weight!
Right. Those facilities which hire doctor or nurse enablers.
As I noted yesterday, there's about to be a new altie haven operating in Texas:
for the past few years, Gary Null and his woo-tinged nurse, Luanne Pennesi, have continuously insulted NY and its laws whilst planning a centre in health freedom friendly 'Tejas'.
There's to be a (quasi) medical facility ( ozone, vitamin C drips, colonics etc), an artsy "village", a "veterans' village", a cooking school ( vegan only), an anti-aging retreat, hydroponic gardening and too much other woo to mention.
I just found his registration for TWO non-profits ( the veteran facility and the "Nutrition Institute of America" AND two corporations- a health and nutrition entity (inc) and a holding company, filed in May 2013. The head honcho will be the director of all of these, aided and abetted by said woo-nurse and two other women.
He often discusses why Texas is so fab for health freedom and how it has water issues in the west whilst the east is sustainably green**. This woo-topia will be located in Mineola, Texas.
He has shown photos of his healh retreats over the past year or so: some, are located in an obviously tropical place ( his Florida estate, now for sale) and another place without palm trees. ( photos of both @ his eponymous website)
** so are jungles in India- which I'm told eastern Texas resembles- the west is more like drier parts of the Middle East.
It's case No. CD253359. There was supposed to be an evidentiary hearing on March 14. There's a sad Meetup group that mentions another court date coming in August.
The guy behind that meetup has a FB page. He sounds like a bit of a glibertarian.
so are jungles in India- which I’m told eastern Texas resembles- the west is more like drier parts of the Middle East.
I've never been to India, and it's been a long time since I've been in Texas, but the parts of east Texas I have seen didn't look very jungle-like to me. They do get adequate rainfall, on average (especially near the Gulf coast, which can get monsoon thunderstorms in the summer), but it's highly variable: some years they get way too much, and other years they get way too little.
West Texas is the southern end of the Great Plains, which runs northward all the way to Saskatchewan. West Texas does indeed have serious water problems, as do New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
If I'm eyeballing the maps right, Mineola is currently (by the most recent map, dated 24 June) in a drought status of D0 or "abnormally dry". There is a strip extending from northwest of Houston up to Texarkana that is not in drought, and another such area in the Rio Grande Valley. Areas west of Mineola, including the DFW metroplex, are in severe (D2) to extreme (D3) drought, with some parts of north Texas and the Panhandle in exceptional (D4, the highest category) drought.
I would be wary of any scheme which depends on adequate rainfall in Texas. They could still be sustainably green in east Texas with a bit of planning and infrastructure, but government planning is political anathema in Texas these days.
Even if he got a real doctor to administer the IV medications, wouldn’t he still run afoul of number 3 regarding prescribing?
If one goes back to the original press release (PDF), the question of who was putting in the IVs might not matter if the ranch would have needed licensing as a medical facility.
I would be wary of any scheme which depends on adequate rainfall in Texas. They could still be sustainably green in east Texas with a bit of planning and infrastructure....
I was kind of wondering about the hydroponics part. There's a brief mention at the end here about greenhouses maybe being ready for prime time (you're going to have issues with temperature and humidity control), but it's going to be water-intensive no matter how you slice it, and there's the whole issue of reclaiming or disposing of the wastewater.
re hydroponic "farming"
According to the Meister, people who want to maintain a _sustainable_ lifestyle, independent of corporate servitude, might start a hydroponic "farm" right in their own living room or backyard ( he can teach you *how*) and then, transport their produce daily ( esp organic boutique-y baby vegetables, medicinal/ culinary herbs, exotic greens) to nearby cities wherein the alties are just hankering for vegan snacks. Supposedly, both Austin and Dallas are amongst the most progressive, healthy American cities.
I did not make that up: I only report: I am creative but not THAT creative.
-btw- I just visited an area with many hydroponic supply shops but I imagine that they prefer a rather different shade of green.
@ Eric Lund:
My analogies are hyberbolic in the service of jest.
That would be HYPERBOLIC
Just as long as they're not hypergolic. ;-)
Inflammatory rhetoric ? Me? Never!
According to the Meister, people who want to maintain a _sustainable_ lifestyle, independent of corporate servitude, might start a hydroponic “farm” right in their own living room or backyard ( he can teach you *how*) and then, transport their produce daily ( esp organic boutique-y baby vegetables, medicinal/ culinary herbs, exotic greens) to nearby cities wherein the alties are just hankering for vegan snacks.
Hey, it's not as though I haven't considered doing holy basil and sweet neem (you can hydroponically grow a banana tree in a five-gallon bucket), but I don't know that I could legally sell them. It's not an economically winning proposition unless one can sell to restaurants: Running just the lights at residential rates is going to be a chunk of change. The stuff doesn't keep.* It would take multiple crops to even establish a quality baseline, etc.
Outdoor raised-bed gardening is a separate issue, but indoor cultivation requires significant planning (ventilation, CO2 injection, etc.) and initial outlays. The Modern Farmer article mentions how reefer enthusiasts kept the cottage industry alive, BTW (and, yes, I've exchanged E-mail with T‐ A– ; copyright question).
I'm reminded, though, that a local radio host has a story about how he once noticed drops of water coming from his ceiling. This is always bad, but dire with plaster-and-lath construction. When the landlord persisted in gaining entry to the upstairs apartment, he found that the tenants had laid down inches of soil on the living-room floor for home gardening. I don't think it was even the Money Tree.**
* Kaffir lime leaves freeze well, so that's an option. Curry leaves aren't amenable to this approach.
** I saw this screened in San Francisco; it reminds me of My Beautiful Laundrette when it bubbles to mind.
And THAT tale reminds me of The Earth Room by Walter de Maria
( for the uninitiated: a guy fills a loft in Soho with dirt: people have gone to view it for nearly 40 years).
Ah *My Beautiful Laundrette*!
-btw-I drove someone around Mendocino looking for photo subjects and saw a sign pointing to Potter Valley.
"What's in Potter Valley?" quoth he.
I would be wary of any scheme which depends on adequate rainfall in Texas.
A Saskatchewan farmer decided to move to Texas because he was tired of the harsh winters. He was ready to make an offer on a farm in West Texas when it started to snow. The realtor realized he was about to lose the deal, so he asked the farmer's son if he had ever seen rain before. The boy replied "No, but I seen rain twice."
Dumb question here, but is ultrasound ever used to diagnose cancers besides breast cancer? I might have misheard but I think my sister had it to test for thyroid cancer along with some other tests.
Yes, ultrasound is certainly used to investigate thyroid nodules.It adds additional information to what can be detected on isotope scans. It's also used to investigate intra-abdominal and pelvic tumours. Any radiologists here who can elaborate on this or correct me?
Eric: I've been in Pune and in Houston in July and they're both as hot and humid and buggy as anyone could wish for.
I like the Earth Room.
I hope it's there forever.
Just out of curiosity (and possibly some sort of undiagnosed intellectual masochism), wouldn't he still be able to quack from behind bars? Is there anything that would prevent him from, say, having "subscribers" to a "nutritional advice newsletter", or writing books?
Thanks Orac. I have a new term to play with: 'quackjacked'
Considering it happens a lot here is Aus too, it is a perfect descriptor. :)
Just out of curiosity (and possibly some sort of undiagnosed intellectual masochism), wouldn’t he still be able to quack from behind bars?
My weary head wishes you hadn't said that. There have been attempts at laws to prevent (notorious) felons from profiting from their crimes in the publishing racket; I don't know how they've panned out when subjected to constitutional scrutiny.
Now, if the hypothetical jailhouse enterprise were to represent an overt furtherance of the original crime (e.g., "The Ranch Is Unaffected! Make checks out to my wife!"), I'd be inclined to say that it wouldn't fly.
I doubt that anything like the Starseed Transmission* could be shut down, but this is all rank speculation.
* When Tim Leary was in Folsom, comet Kohoutek sent him a message, which Rosemary delivered as a communiqué, etc.
^ There may also be the question whether any direct outside earnings while incarcerated would have to go toward repayment of a criminal fine. There's the intangible value of the brand and so forth.
I recommend competent spiritual authority. Or settling for his not seeing a toilet seat for around a decade.
Home hydroponics is fairly easy - a few decades ago I built myself a system using rockwool and bits and pieces I could get at my local DIY and aquarium centers. Using lights would be expensive but there is always this approach. Fun, but I doubt it would sustain many people after an apocalypse of any magnitude.
@Krebiozen - Round our way, using lights with hydroponics is a pretty good way to guarantee a knock on the door (or battering ram through it) from Mr Plod after the police helicopter's infra-red camera shows your house glowing brighter than my arse the day after a visit to the Stratford Tandoori...
Rebecca, I've always loved your way with words!
You'd think so, but there are several skunk farms in my area that are extremely obvious (smell, permanently blacked-out windows, condensation etc.) but that the police apparently pay no attention to. I know of at least one such farm that neighbours (fed up with the stink and comings and goings of dodgy-looking characters) have repeatedly reported to the police with no results.
Incidentally, my gardening days are long over, but I believe only a large commercial grow would be given away by the heat. Someone might supply their personal tomato requirements using a hydroponics rig in a closet with a 250 watt grow-light (for example) without producing enough heat to arouse suspicions.
P.S. Sadly the Stratford Tandoori is no more. They used to do a fine selection of fish curries, and were second only to the Raja in Green Street, now also defunct.
@Krebiozen - Isn't it the Palm Grove or something these days? I've always preferred the Hemalaya or Spice Inn for a good sitdown, but used to use the Stratford Tandoori for a good ringstinger takeaway. Lovely people too.
Oddly enough, the only places I've seen hydroponic supply stores seem to be in rather affluent suburbs, liberal enclaves and artsy, university towns which makes me think it's not the disadvantaged who are growing the magickal herb.
The same type of folk who have quite decent careers, wear silver marijuana leaf earrings at age 52 and drive BMWs.
According to a table published in the Wall St. Journal yesterday, the entire state of Texas is suffering from lack of sufficient rainfall (from abnormally dry to severe drought).
"my gardening days are long over, but I believe only a large commercial grow would be given away by the heat."
Given that LED lamps don't give off much heat (compared to older HPS and metal halide lamps), it's probably power consumption instead of heat that would be the giveaway for a large grow operation.
@ Dangerous Bacon:
Since I brought up Teaxas weather..
Well, the drought doesn't seem to bother Gary Null who is proudly posting new photos of his June 2014 retreat *in Texas* ( labelled as such) at his eponymous website's photo section.
It looks rather green to me.
It'll be a retreat for "lifestyle change"- possibly aided and abetted by NY area enabler-doctors. He couldn't set up a resort / health retreat in Florida due to zoning laws so he headed west. Not far from Andy and Stan.
TEXAS that is.
Given that LED lamps don’t give off much heat (compared to older HPS and metal halide lamps), it’s probably power consumption instead of heat that would be the giveaway for a large grow operation.
I don't know that these have really caught on yet (certainly, every bust I've seen in the news in the past year has been with MH lamps, but they're a capial investment). A review from last year notes that you may want that heat.
(Indeed, I'm reminded that one problem I had was keeping the cat from climbing into the ebb-and-flow table to nap under the HPS. He must have eventually figured out that the pump was going to come on sooner or later, but it didn't stop him.)
I think I've figured out why all these quacksters are obsessed with arses:
'The enema of my enema is my friend.'
"When will Robert O. Young be put behind bars, where he belongs? Who knows? Soon, I hope, but I fear he’ll keep quacking until the day he dies."
Hopefully of cancer. We need more examples than Hulda Clark.