Harvard cancer expert Ramzi Amri believes that the death of Steve Jobs was preventable.

The issue at hand is Jobs’ stubborn refusal to pursue conventional medicine, opting instead for “alternative medicine” quackery.

According to a 2008 Fortune article, Jobs for nine months pursued “alternative methods to treat his pancreatic cancer, hoping to avoid [an] operation through a special diet.” The Buddhist vegetarian took this approach from the time he was diagnosed in October 2003 until at least the end of July 2004, when he underwent surgery at Stanford University Medical Center.

By then the cancer was so far along Jobs had to lose his pancreas and duodenum in a “Whipple procedure.” The cancer also spread to all the major parts of his liver. “The only reason he’d have a transplant,” wrote Amri, “would be that the tumor invaded all major parts of the liver, which takes a considerable amount of time.” Amri said the Whipple procedure and liver transplant were clear signs the cancer was out of control and should have been stopped earlier.

The condition might have been nipped in the bud if Jobs had acted right away. Jobs’s cancer manifest in neuroendocrine tumors, which are typically far less lethal than the “pancreatic adenocarcinoma” that make up 95 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.

Amri isn’t the first to make the observation, as the 2008 article did spur some discussion at the time about alternative medicine. But he’s the first high profile figure that is an expert in his field to voice such an opinion.

Others aren’t likely to follow. Amri is careful to insist that this be viewed as his own personal opinion shared on his own personal space and not to be construed as academic. Jobs was a pathologically private person considering his stature, and as such did not subject himself to much in the way of examination. This extends to his personal health, to the point where he would refuse to comment on concerns about his health even though he would appear in front of packed conferences and on film looking gaunt, frail, and speaking with a harsh scratch in his voice.

But it’s still a valid observation and one worthy of further exploration.

Alternative medicine’s role in health is wholly speculative. It’s also a placebo effect. If you need to pursue it in the same way some need to hold a cross and/or mutter an offer to their God(s), then all the more power to you. But you do yourself and potentially the rest of the world a true disservice when you use that in lieu of, rather than in addition to, treatment that could save your life.

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