Bad news continues to accumulate for "pH Miracle Living" quack Robert O. Young

Last night was one of those nights where, for whatever reason, I ran out of steam. Whether it was residual effects from the change to daylight savings time this weekend or just a day in the operating room, I don't know, but I crashed on the couch hard, at least until lighting and thunder from the storms rolling through between 2 and 3 AM woke me up for a little while.

Fortunately, I do have a little tidbit to post, a very good one as well. Remember, the "pH Miracle Living" quack, Robert O. Young? He claims to be a naturopath, but even that claim, like pretty much everything he claims, seems to be dubious at best. (Yes, he's even a fake quack.) Basically, to Young, cancer, AIDS, sepsis, and basically all diseases are due to "excess acid," and the cure is "alkalinization."

I first discovered Young nine years ago, and, since then, I've discussed his extreme quackery from time to time on this blog. Young claims to be able to treat cancer and—as is the case with so many quacks like him—a wide variety of other serious diseases, such as lupus, type I diabetes (you read that right, not type II diabetes), metastatic prostate cancer, and cancer in general. Not surprisingly, Young is also quite antivaccine, publishing anecdotes from parents who believe their child is "vaccine damaged" and appeals to support antivaccine groups like the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC).

Perhaps the most famous incident involving Young was his treatment of Kim Tinkham. At the time she encountered Young in 2008, Tinkham had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, described as stage III, and was being urged to undergo surgery. She refused. In the end, Tinkham paid the ultimate price for her trust in Young.

When last I visited Young's sordid tale, he had been convicted of practicing medicine without a license, but the jury had deadlocked on the other charges, the ones that would garner him some serious jail time, the charge of fraud being the most prominent one.

Beautifully, Young's still in jail, and, as promised by the district attorney the last time I wrote about him, he is going to be tried again on the deadlocked charges:

Author of the well-known “pH Miracle” books, and philosophy, Young already was placed in prison Feb. 3. following being found guilty of two charges of practicing medicine without a license.

However a hung jury, after deliberating two weeks, found him innocent of one charge of practicing medicine without a license and didn’t convict him of six fraud and grand theft charges. Jury members voted 11-1 to convict on the two medical charges but deadlocked 8-4 on fraud charges.

Prosecutors said they would retry Young, 64, on the six fraud charges. “We have victims who are entitles to get verdicts,” Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas said after refiling charges.

These are the charges:

Prosecutors in their original 13-page complaint, said Young charged four terminally ill patients at least $50,000 each for treatment. one paid more than $120,0 Prosecution witnesses included family members of cancer patients who had gone to the center and subsequently died.

Pfingst said people sought help from Young specifically because he was a naturopathic practitioner and not a medical doctor. Young never said his technique would cure cancer, Pfingst said. Needles used for intravenous treatments were applied by licensed doctors and nurses, he said.

Quacks like Young frequently retreat to this claim when busted. Never mind that Young has explicitly claim that cancer is cells "spoiled by acid" and that reversing it is easy with an "alkaline diet." Of course, quacks frequently use weaselly language with plausible deniability, a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" sort of tactic that says they can cure cancer without actually explicitly saying it, in order to be able to defend themselves by claiming that they never told the patient that their quackery would cure them. Never mind that Young's multiple books and websites are bursting with claims about how cancer and all manner of diseases can be reversed by his methods.

So basically Young is at least as bad as Stanislaw Burzynski.

After nine years of following this quack's exploits and noting that while his trial was pending he was still traveling all over promoting his "pH Miracle Living" claims, continuing to bilk dying patients, and being very active on Twitter and social media promoting his business, I also take no shame in feeling intense schadenfreude over this:

Young had been out of jail on $100,000 bail earlier this year as his trial started and stopped several times before concluding. He even toured Europe during the last year, continuing to give large public lectures and conduct private consultations. With his convictions, however, his bail was increased to $700,000. His supporters have raised only $16,000 through an online crowdsourcing site for legal bills to date.

Young’s attorney, high-profile former San Diego District Attorney Paul Pfingst, told Vista Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney last week that Young was tapped out financially. A public defender now will represent him.

Yes! True, I have some doubts that Young is truly broke and suspect he must have substantial funds hidden in offshore bank accounts that he can't access from prison. Also, given that he is now facing a civil suit by a woman with stage IV ovarian cancer who was advised by him not to undergo conventional medical treatment. Even so, it is good to see him experience what so many of his patients did: The extraction of large quantities of his wealth. True, this time it was mostly legal fees and bail, but it's still good to see.

It would be even better to see Young spend the rest of his life in prison. Given that Young is now 63, it might not be outside of the realm of possibility, although I'd be surprised if he drew a sentence long enough to guarantee that.

Here's hoping I'm surprised in the coming year. Here's also hoping that Young will be forced to use prison food to "alkalinize" himself for many years to come.

Robert O. Young

More like this

If there's one thing that's frustrating about the U.S. justice system, it's just how slow the wheels of justice grind. For example, it's hard to believe that it was over two years ago that "pH Miracle" quack Robert O. Young was arrested for fraud, grand theft, and practicing medicine without a…
Being a cancer surgeon and researcher, naturally I tend to write about cancer a lot more than other areas of medicine and science. It's what I know best. Also, cancer is a very common area for unscientific practices to insinuate themselves, something that's been true for a very long time. The ideas…
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…
I didn’t think I’d be revisiting this topic so quickly. However, given that I’m at TAM and I don’t have a lot of time to do one of my usual 2,000 word epics for a change, I thought that this story, which popped up the other day while I was traveling was at least worth mentioning: Robert Young will…

Yes, he’s even a fake quack.

Too lazy to even get his Not a Doctor degree and paperwork in order? That's impressively bad.

I have some doubts that Young is truly broke and suspect he must have substantial funds hidden in offshore bank accounts that he can’t access from prison.

He might have such accounts, but if he hasn't been reporting them to the IRS as required by law, he's in a world of trouble with the feds. There is a law called FATCA which imposes heavy reporting requirements for both Americans who hold foreign accounts and the financial institutions which host such accounts. The practical effect has been to make it difficult for ordinary Americans living abroad to open bank accounts in their country of residence, but the scenario you describe is exactly what the law was designed to combat.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Simply claiming one is a naturopath is all that is necessary to become a naturopath in the majority of U.S. states. I have made the claim that I am a naturopath here in Indiana. (I don't practice.) There is no paperwork required. I am NOT a fake quack. I am a REAL quack dammit.

By ScienceMonkey (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

His supporters have raised only $16,000 through an online crowdsourcing site for legal bills to date.

Perhaps, in the immortal words of Roger Waters, the tide is turning.

Stupid jury. It is an open and shut case, isn't it?

Good news they are going to retry him. But almost certainly Young is the type of slimebag, who, if convicted at the second trial, will appeal claiming his public defender didn't defend him well enough.

It must gall the quacks who paid to be a quack to see somebody who didn't pay practicing his quackery.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Sic semper omnes pharmacopola doctores.
Schadenfreude is not strong enough an emotion when it comes to these criminals.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

We have so few victories in the skeptical movement, I think it is ok to revel in a bit of schaudenfreude whenever a despicable human like Young gets his comeuppance

By Newcoaster (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Notice: Someone is trying to post comments here and using a different e-mail address each time. He's been doing it for a while. Now, every time someone posts under a new e-mail address Wordpress treats it as a new commenter and puts the comment into moderation. Then I have to approve it. I will no longer do it for this person, as he keeps using nonsense strings in front of "" as his e-mail address. It's extra work for me to check each time and then approve each one. If this person wants to keep commenting, he needs to pick an e-mail address and stick with it. Otherwise, I will not approve any new e-mail addresses from him, as I've already approved many.

Eric Lund wrote:

The practical effect has been to make it difficult for ordinary Americans living abroad to open bank accounts in their country of residence, but the scenario you describe is exactly what the law was designed to combat.

Sometime last year, I got a mass mail from my employer informing me that, if I'm a US citizen I have to file a metric fuckton of documentation to the IRS about the employee benefits programme. I felt rather happy about not being a US citizen then.

On topic, sounds like pretty good news. More tangentially, while crowdfunding for bail didn't work this time, I sort of think the idea of bail is overdue for being looked at again in a world where crowdfunding is a thing.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Newcoaster, for me, schadenfreude is inadequate to express my feelings in this matter.
Delight in schadenfreude all you wish. Meanwhile I will self-righteously revel in unadulterated glee.
(Schadenfreude is such a delicious word to type.)

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Orac: "Notice: Someone is trying to post comments here and using a different e-mail address each time."

Did the idiot manage to get one approved on the homeopathy thread? Because I pulled out my "Trollin' Song" for his semi-literate blubbering.

Two of his acolytes in the UK, Errol Denton and Stephen Ferguson, were prosecuted under the Cancer Act and convicted.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Based on Britt Hermes posts, Naturopathic school is itself a huge con, and Mr. Young wouldn't have paid attention to all the anatomy anyhow.
As for open and shut cases, I suspect someone is erring on the side of not depriving the naive of their right to waste money and destroy themselves and their family in the process. Sigh.

By Christine Rose (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

He might have such accounts, but if he hasn’t been reporting them to the IRS as required by law, he’s in a world of trouble with the feds

Piss off any other Federal agency you like but do not get the Internal Revenue Service interested in you. That's about a 7 on a scale of 1 to fatal.

Regulators going after quacks like Burzynski should take note -- even the FBI couldn't convict Al Capone, it took the IRS to lock him away.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Well, pH... heck.

Couldn't have happened to a better quack.

pH "balancing" and pH "diet" is as blatantly fraudulent as "ear candling" for "toxins."

Johnny @9: I did make that pie for pi day, and it is delicious. I'm thinking about adapting it to use blackstrap molasses and unsweetened chocolate.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Young is superbad. I hope he treated the warden's mom.

By Bob Blaskiewicz (not verified) on 16 Mar 2016 #permalink

Schadenfreude is good.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 17 Mar 2016 #permalink

# 2 ScienceMonkey

I'm not sure about the status of Naturopathy here in Ontario but I have snazzy business cards identifying me as “Applied Nutritionist ” and “Behavioural Economist”.

The frightening thing is someone I know saw the new “Applied Nutritionist” card and thought it was serious. Well, it was, in one sense, if you invite me to dinner I will discuss the menu but I am not sure that that was what she was thinking.

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 17 Mar 2016 #permalink

I hope he treated the warden’s mom.

Naah...let's hope he treated Bubba's mom.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 17 Mar 2016 #permalink

Every time I see the words "Robert Young" and "doctor", I think of the actor who played Marcus Welby, MD. Who would quite frankly have been a better real doctor than this clown.

" (Yes, he’s even a fake quack.)"

You means he's a quack quack.

I'll get my coat.

By John Phillips (not verified) on 17 Mar 2016 #permalink

In recent years my tolerance for all of these exploitative, money-grubbing quacks can be easily summarized as this: hanging is too good for them. They use people's anxiety about diagnosis and treatment to manipulate them into paying large sums of money by encouraging their fear of the diagnosis and treatment and offer them "cures" that they assure the patient are guaranteed. An honest doctor seems powerless to treat them when compared to the bogus outcome sold by a snake oil salesman.

My personal experience with the ph miracle/alkavarian life style works for me. It is a lifestyle which can reverse sickness if you stick to it.

By John Winkler (not verified) on 30 Apr 2016 #permalink

@John Winkler - That's nice. What does "reverse sickness" mean in this context and how do you know that this life style can do that?

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 30 Apr 2016 #permalink

Say John - what have your pH measurements been before and after starting this diet, and how were they taken?

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 30 Apr 2016 #permalink