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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

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    Steve Jobs’ Deadliest Mistake

    By Kyle | October 7, 2011

    It’s horrifying to learn that Steve Jobs, for all his brilliance in some fields, was massively hostile to science. That decision probably shortened his life and may well have cost him a normal lifespan. When he first learned he had cancer in the pancreas, this Zen buddhist, like many another California celebrity, rejected conventional wisdom and the near-unanimous opinion of the medicial community and pursued quack cures such as dietary adjustments. Nine months later, when he discovered the tumor had become enlarged (and apparently spread to nearby organs), he finally chose surgery. “Think different” and “follow your dreams” are said to be the lesson of Jobs’ life. A wiser one might be, “Know what you don’t know.” Consider whether a knee-jerk contrarian attitude, even to fields in which you have no expertise, is wise. To be plain, Jobs shortened his life because he thought he was smarter than his doctors.

    Jobs raises anew what I might call the Mickey Mantle question: In a zero-sum situation such as allocating livers for transplant in a world in which demand exceeds supply, is all human life to be valued at the same level? Mantle was a drunk who received a new liver he didn’t really deserve and anyway died a couple of years later.

    Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009. That means some other person who needed a liver didn’t get it. This new liver may have shortened his life further (transplants require drugs to suppress the immune system, which is unwise if you have metastasized cancer) but in any case didn’t extend it beyond two years. I assume it would have been evident to the doctors who installed Jobs’ new liver that the chances of a long-term favorable outcome were very poor since the liver was not the site of localized disease but of metastasized cancer, which is more or less a death sentence.

    I don’t know whether Jobs jumped the queue but it does seem that celebrities and rich people enjoy remarkably good fortune when it comes to confrontations with bureaucracy. Granting that Jobs was a great man — should great men be allowed to jump the queue for liver transplants? What if the person who didn’t get one would have lived another 25 years? Is two years of Jobs’ life worth 25 of an ordinary person’s?

    Topics: Philosophy, Tech | 17 Comments »

    17 Responses to “Steve Jobs’ Deadliest Mistake”

    1. KS Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 9:33 am

      I would put Jobs in line ahead of David Crosby.

    2. Peter Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 10:33 am

      Roger Ebert did the same thing – ignoring medical advice about his mounth cancer. He experimented with quack cures for his cancer before finally doing what his doctors wanted all along. He probably would be able to speak today. He admits as much in his new autobiography.

    3. kishke Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Didn’t he survive about a decade with pancreatic cancer? That’s pretty unusual. I believe most people with pancreatic cancer last less than a year.

    4. Kyle Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      From the Daily Beast story:
      “Pancreatic cancers arise from the pancreatic cells themselves; this is the kind that killed actor Patrick Swayze in 2009. But cancers in the pancreas, called neuroendocrine tumors, arise from islands of hormone-producing cells that happen to be in that organ.” The latter is what Jobs had, and it’s very often survivable.

    5. Kyle Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Peter — got a link for that? I wasn’t aware of Ebert’s situation.

    6. Peter Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Kyle – It’s in Maureen Dowd’s review (actually quite good – makes you realize that she is good writer who would have a much bigger audience if she took her ideological blinders off).

    7. Kyle Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      thanks. If I were a rich man, I’d hire someone to go through the Times every day and pick out for me the 5 worthwhile, non-ridiculously-agenda-driven articles that are in there every day but which I can no longer be bothered to seek out amidst all the buncombe.

    8. Kyle Says:
      October 7th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      From Dowd’s review, gotta love this graf:

      “Ebert and I had a similar Catholic ¬≠working-class upbringing, with the Lone Ranger and Lawrence Welk, and we share the same passions: old-school newspapering, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, tuna melts, Robert Mitch¬≠um, the Latin Mass, film noir, used-book stores, hoarding.”
      Dowd’s life has nothing to do with the previous graf, or the next one. It isn’t brought up again in the rest of the review. She just wanted to talk about herself somewhere. As if she hasn’t mentioned before what a plucky old-fashioned working-class Irish Catholic lass she is.

    9. JohnFNWayne Says:
      October 8th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      That graf sums up everything Dowd has written since the Clinton administration. It always comes back to her, and usually has something to do with worthless men who aren’t worthy to date her.

    10. Kyle Says:
      October 8th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      “Men would rather date working-class girls. They’re so afraid of my tremendous intellect.”

    11. JohnFNWayne Says:
      October 9th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      Heh, what’s worse, some people thought those two sentences made for a good book.

    12. Liz Says:
      October 9th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      I had a relative who received a liver transplant about 15 years ago, and they prioritized those on the donor list based on the severity of their illness; the sicker one is, the higher on the list he/she is placed. This seemed exactly backwards. Not sure if this is how it still works today.
      We also learned that there are donor regions, and the list was longer in New England, so my relative moved to FL in order to get on a shorter list. He died less than a year after the transplant.

    13. kishke Says:
      October 9th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      I think prioritizing those whose illness is more severe makes perfect sense. They are the ones in greatest danger, so they need the transplant sooner. Their former condition should make no difference on whether the transplant takes, because they will at that point be disease-free, and if it doesn’t take, it’s not going to help those with a less severe condition either. If you were to argue for a list based on those most likely to survive a transplant and become healthy, that would be another story, although the ones deciding would inevitably be bureaucrats, the dullest people on the planet. That can’t be a good thing.

    14. Liz Says:
      October 9th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

      I can see the benefits of both approaches, prioritizing based on severity of need vs. greatest chance of survival (healthiest). In my relative’s case, he had been waiting for years, and by the time he received the transplant his health had seriously deteriorated. If he had received the liver earlier he may well have lived longer. Instead, he had to be dying to get it.

    15. jd Says:
      October 14th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      So you’re a doctor? You’ve read his case file? No? Then shut up. You have no idea.

    16. Kyle Says:
      October 15th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      You need to be a doctor to know that a change in eating habits is not going to kill off a tumor? And you need to be an astronomer to know that the earth isn’t flat, I suppose.

    17. KS Says:
      October 16th, 2011 at 10:25 am

      On Friday MailOnline ran an article titled “Steve Jobs doomed himself by shunning conventional medicine until too late, claims Harvard expert.”