Let Oprah know that Kim Tinkham is dying of cancer

I’m still perturbed about yesterday.

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.

After all, it was Oprah who promoted the mystical New Age woo that is The Secret. It was The Secret that inspired Kim Tinkham, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, to refuse the conventional therapy that might very well have saved her life and opt instead for Robert O. Young’s acid-base pseudoscience that claims that the tumor in cancer is not the actual disease but rather the reaction to cells “spoiled” by acid. Were it not for Oprah, Tinkham might not have gotten the validation and fame that she did. She herself said that being on Oprah made her famous enough that when she called various doctors and scientists they actually took her calls. Finally, it was Oprah Winfrey who, rather than trying to hook Tinkham up with real cancer experts, instead brought her on her show because it was good television. Yes, Oprah did make an effort to try to get Tinkham to see reason, but it was half-hearted and never challenged the credentials of the “practitioner” into whose clutched Tinkham had fallen.

And now Oprah Winfrey is on the verge of starting up her own “health network,” the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which will take the place of Discovery Health on January 1, 2011. At that point, she’ll have an entire 24/7 cable network to spread her New Age woo, woo like The Secret that entrapped Kim Tinkham. That’s why, on the eve of Oprah’s new cable channel, I think it’s time to remind Oprah of Kim Tinkham. Yes, Oprah has forgotten about Kim Tinkham. It was, after all, nearly four years ago that Tinkham was on her show. She made good TV for one episode. Now she’s dying, most likely because of a course of action that had its roots in New Age nonsense that Oprah Winfrey promoted. It’s entirely appropriate to remind Oprah Winfrey of what she has inadvertently wrought. Indeed, in the wake of Oprah’s recent promotion of faith healer and “psychic surgeon” John of God, doing so is more imperative than ever.

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

You, my readers, are just the folks to inform Oprah (or at least Oprah’s producers), too. You can do it by heading to Oprah’s contact page and letting her know what happened to Kim Tinkham. You might even, if you think it appropriate, send her links to the Caring for Kim website and, more heart-wrenching, the Caring for Kim Facebook page, where posts by the numerous well-wishers and several of Tinkham’s friends and family describing what can only be considered a death vigil are bound to bring a tear to the eye. If enough people do it, Oprah’s producers will take notice. Maybe they’ll even look into what has happened to Kim Tinkham, at which point they’ll learn that she doesn’t have long to live. It’s true that there is a risk to this strategy; Oprah might actually do a story on Tinkham and find that Tinkham, even though she’s dying, is still completely devoted to Robert O. Young, the dubious practitioner whose nostrums brought her to this point by wasting time that could better have been used pursuing effective treatment. She might even bring attention on Young that could raise his profile. These are risks worth taking. There is even the risk that it may be that Tinkham is not dying of breast cancer; however, being a skeptic I would rather know that I was mistaken than continue to argue for something that is not supported by the evidence.

Be that as it may, this strategy requires a lot of people bombarding the Oprah website with requests. It’s unlikely to work just from my readership alone. It needs other bloggers willing to urge their readers to do the same thing to have even a wisp of a chance of working. So, if you have a blog, consider urging your readers to remind Oprah’s producers about Kim Tinkham. Let’s put it this way. Even if nothing at all comes of this, at the very least Oprah should be made aware of the price of quackery such as that which is about to claim Kim Tinkham. Yes, I know that Tinkham is an adult. I know that she bears major responsibility for her own choices. Yes, I know it’s true that no one forced Tinkham to go to Robert O. Young for help. On the other hand, I also know that it is true that the sort of wishful thinking that Oprah promoted “primed the pump,” so to speak. Even so, Robert O. Young and, yes, Oprah also bear a major share of the responsibility as well. Robert O. Young is beyond shame, but maybe Oprah is not.