What’s going on with Robert O. Young?

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:

  1. Conducts surgery or any other procedure on another person that punctures the skin or harmfully invades the body.
  2. Administers or prescribes X-ray radiation to another person.
  3. Prescribes or administers legend drugs or controlled substances to another person.
  4. Recommends the discontinuance of legend drugs or controlled substances prescribed by an appropriately licensed practitioner.
  5. 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.
  6. Sets fractures.
  7. Treats lacerations or abrasions through electrotherapy.
  8. 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.