A high-grade ego with high-grade prostate cancer

For those who have either forgotten or never knew who Craig Venter is or was, here’s an update: he recently had surgical treatment for “high-grade” prostate cancer.

And with his usual high capacity for promotion of himself and his business interests, he has done his best to make sure that we all know that his diagnosis of prostate cancer was not conducted in a normal manner (implying that it might never have been found by normal methods).

For those interested in reading about Dr. Venter and his personal approaches to his medical care, we recommend:

Since none of us can tell what Dr. Venter means when he describes his prostate cancer as “high grade”, we are, of course, unable to tell whether his case of prostate cancer was serious at all. What we do know is that the state of his ego appears to continue to meet “high-grade” criteria.

One Response

  1. I feel the need to step in here and defend Venter a bit. The guy has had a huge hand in advancing our understanding of genetics, and particularly in the incredible advances in sequencing technology which make so much of the current research possible. I am not saying he personally invented this technology, but he certainly served as a catalyst for its rapid development. The government sponsored the Human Genome Project (led by Dr. Francis Collins, who I greatly respect) was originally scheduled to complete around 2015. Venter stepped into the field announcing 2000 as his target date. That lit a fire that hasn’t gone out. I followed all this in the news at the time, and have also read a number of books about the race.

    Is Venter self-promoting? Of course. But so are lots of guys who have changed the world (check out Thomas Edison … he might not be exactly the person we teach children about in elementary school). These kind of people are able to throw out a vision and get people to invest money in it.

    About his clinic: I’m glad he’s doing it and glad there are people willing to spend $25K to support him. Important stuff will be learned. Technology initially only available to the wealthy eventually becomes available to everyone. Watch one of those old movies with Michael Douglas driving around Wall Street holding a gigantic “mobile phone”. Today, if you can’t afford a cell phone, the government will buy you one. As far as the debate over appropriate health screening, there is a difference between what makes good public policy and what a given individual might be willing to spend money on. Screening for aortic aneurysms might be an example. Not hugely expensive, but it is not done routinely. From an insurance/public policy perspective it is pretty expensive for the few folks that you will find. But for an individual, the $150 might be worth the peace of mind (Robin Thicke seemed to be in great health). I haven’t been screened, but am thinking about it.

    Interesting background on Venter I read in one of the books: he went to Vietnam and served on the battlefield as a medic. He saw a lot of guys die. He came back a different person, with an appreciation for how fragile and short and precious his life was, and determined to make it count. (Of course, that could be part of his self-crafted legend, or could be the truth. He did serve on the battlefield in Vietnam, though.)

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