More Sylvia Browne Stupidity

Posted by: Andee / Category:

I have mentioned my distaste for Sylvia Browne, the "psychic," many times on this blog, but I ran across an article written by Robert Lancaster who runs the website StopSylviaBrowne. He does the research into many of her predictions and readings, and posted this on his website on March 20th. Lets just say that Sylvia Browne gives some no-so-good medical advice to a woman in the audience at the Montel Williams Show...

If you haven't been to, you are missing out. It's amazing how many times this woman gets things wrong, and yet so many people believe in her. Reminds me of a religion I used to be in...

Sylvia Browne gives some questionable medical advice.
Published: Mar 20, 2008
Written by: Robert S. Lancaster

One aspect of Sylvia Browne's "psychic readings" which I find to be particularly distasteful and disturbing is her dispensing "medical advice."

Despite having no medical training, Browne frequently gives "diagnoses" to the people who she "reads," recommending treatments and "prescribing" various treatments and even medications.

This article looks at one such "diagnosis."

On January 31 2002, a segment of the Montel Williams Show was shown in which a woman named Susan stood to ask for Sylvia Browne's advice on a medical issue.

Here is a transcription of the segment, with my comments inserted:

Video of the reading can be viewed here.

Williams: Where is Susan at? Where's Susan at? Please welcome Susan to the show. Susan, you just--why don't you tell Sylvia? Talk to Sylvia.

Susan: Hi, Montel. Hi, Sylvia. In August 2000, I went for a routine surgery, and two weeks later I have this sharp pain in my belly button. It feels like somebody's pulling it on the other side. I've been to 34 doctors and I've had five other surgeries, and nobody knows what's wrong with me. I was wondering, do you know what's wrong with me?

Williams: You--you know the surgery. She had an ovarian surgery for cysts. So I just--I say that.

Browne: I te--I'm telling you nobody wants to take the credit--I mean, nobody wants to take the fall for leaving something inside. She's got some--something left inside.

As Browne comes up with this answer, she looks up and to our left (see above picture). As has been discussed elsewhere on this site, this is a classic "body language" signal of fabricating a story.

Susan: Do you know what kind of specialist I could go to for this?

Browne: Yeah. I would go under a real, real special MRI. 'Cause, you know, they not only have MRIs for your head, they have it for your body. But there's some kind of instrument that they've left that is impacted in your stomach that's--your--your skin has grown around it.

Assuming for the moment that an actual surgical instrument had been left inside of Susan, is having an MRI - performed by an extremely powerful magnet - really the wisest advice? More on this later.

Note that, according to Montel, Susan had an operation for ovarian cysts. How would an instrument from an ovarian operation be left in her stomach?

Also, at this point in the reading, Browne licks her lips (see image below). This is yet another classic body language "tell" for deception.

Susan: Do you know when this will be over and when I can go back to work?

Browne: Yeah. As soon as you get to somebody that--in--in a real high-tech hospital. Cleveland has one. They have marvelous ones in New York. You know, they have--you know, where they can go to get MRIs.

Williams: Susan, get an MRI done.

Browne: But, you know, it's the funniest thing, and I don't mean here. I just got through crazy doctors, but a lot of doctors will go along with the first one. Do you see what I mean?

Susan: Mm-hmm.

Browne: In other words, I'd go in to a doctor and act like you've never been to one before.

Williams: And don't tell 'em about the operation.

Browne: Don't tell them about the other--the other diagnosis.

Williams: Just say, 'There's something wrong.'

Browne: Yeah.

Susan: Thank you very much.

Williams: [to a man in the audience ] Yes, sir?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) devices contain an extremely powerful magnet. Powerful enough that even heavy metallic objects such as oxygen tanks, chairs (see above image) and floor cleaners all the way across the room can be caught in the device's magnetic field and pulled into it. How powerful? There has been at least one reported death from an oxygen tank flying across a room and into an MRI device with such force that it struck and killed a young patient currently in the device.

Just how powerful an MRIs magnetic field is can be seen on a video shown on this web page. In the video, it takes at least three men, using boards, straps and muscle power, to pull a chair out from an MRI device's magnetic field.

Patients are not allowed to bring anything with any metal - jewelry, glasses, watches, etc. - into the room with the MRI machine, to prevent damage to the device as well as to the patient and the technicians performing the test.

Given all of this, how wise is it to advise someone - who you believe to have a surgical instrument inside them - to go get an MRI done? Not only that, but to advise them to not tell the doctor about the operation where an instrument was (supposedly) left inside?

I was curious as to what an expert in the field of MRIs would say about such advice, so I sent the following email to Dr. Frank Shellock, of

Subject: MRI and Sylvia Browne
From: [email address]
Date: Wed, Jan 23, 2008 6:36 pm
To: "Dr. Frank Shellock" [email address]

Dr. Shellock:

I hope you can take a moment to answer what is probably an odd question. I believe I know the answer, but would like to have an answer from an expert to place on my web site.

I run the web site Sylvia Browne is a television "psychic" who appears regularly on the nationally syndicated Montel Williams Show. As the name of my site might imply, I am highly skeptical of her supposed "abilities," and believe she should stop.

One of the more dangerous things she does is to give medical advice, when she has no license to practice medicine, nor even any medical training of which I'm aware.

One rather dramatic instance of this, and the reason I am writing to you, was when the following exchange took place (all emphasis mine):

[Here I quoted the transcript above]

I was hoping that you might have some comments on this exchange, and specifically on what could happen should a person with a surgical instrument left inside of them approach an MRI field.

Any comments you might have would be very much appreciated by me and the visitors to my web site.

Best regards,

Robert S. Lancaster

Not one to mince words, Dr. Shellock sent the following reply:

Subject: Re: MRI and Sylvia Browne
From: "Frank Shellock, Ph.D.," [email address]
Date: Wed, Jan 23, 2008 8:07 pm
To: [email address]

my comment?


Yikes, indeed.

If there was a metal surgical instrument (say, a scalpel or clamp) inside of Susan when she entered a room containing an MRI machine, the magnet inside the machine would try to pull that instrument right out of Susan's body. This would result in, at best, excruciating pain, and could potentially cause internal damage.

Bottom line: Browne recommended a specific medical treatment, which, if there were indeed a metal object inside Susan, could result in serious injury or even death.

Of course, there are some non-metallic items (such as sponges) used in the course of a surgery. And there are even certain metallic instruments made in such a way as to not be affected by magnetic fields. But for Browne to recommend that this woman just "go get an MRI" to confirm that she had a surgical instrument left inside of her shows either a total lack of understanding of what an MRI machine is, or a callous disregard for Susan's safety.

And Montel Williams, true to form, reaffirmed this questionable "advice."

It should also be noted that body language (Browne's eye movement and licking her lips) is by no means an exact science. These "tells" are not iron-clad guarantees that someone is lying. But, given the context here, I think they are worth considering.

This is just one example of many where Browne shows a lack of basic medical knowledge when dispensing her "diagnoses."

Practicing medicine without a license is illegal. By giving out diagnoses, by recommending treatments, supplements and even medicine, Browne is doing just that. And even her occasional admonition for someone to see a doctor do not excuse it. She is pretending to be a doctor, and has even referred to her customers as "patients" in at least one interview.

Does the law agree with me in this? Time will tell.

My thanks to CFL for initially telling me about this segment, and to EMM for providing the transcript.

And if Susan ever reads this, I would certainly be interested in hearing what happened regarding your condition subsequent to your appearance on the Montel Williams Show.


  1. Anonymous Says:

    as a nurse i happened 2 see that program and was appalled!no one should give out medical advice without medical training,period.and do you think they would post ANY of her many inaccurate 'predictions'? i am howerver;very suprised at montel. you would think if they are so close she would have warned him about his last few marriages.she also has an i knoe it all and intollerant attitude w/some people which i hate. in short she's a multimillionaire because we allow her to continue. desperate people looking for answers will grasp onto anything for hope and that's what makes sylvia brown a criminal,and scammer! aren't there laws against this?thanks bonnie in treastervalley

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Just womdering if any one looked up the women Sylvia had talked to,To see what come of the advice she was givin??? Is she alive, did she do what she was told ,and did they find anything ?