Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#1006: Mehmet Oz


A.k.a. “America’s Doctor”

Mehmet Oz is a TV doctor who first came to public notice through his appearances on Oprah. He currently hosts his own syndicated television talk show, “The Dr. Oz Show,” which is currently one of the saddest and most substantial threats to civilization imposed on the world through Television. The general format of the show consists of inviting many people who work in healthcare for the audience, go through some points that align with real medical science, and then ruin everything by promoting various altmed garbage (warning letters he receives from the FDA don’t carry the same weight with the public, who probably never gets to hear about them anyways). As a doctor, Oz is in fact one of the most accomplished cardiothoracic surgeons of his generation, which makes his journey to the dark side all the more tragic.

The show is currently filled with recommendations ranging from the dubious to the downright fraudulent, and Oz has even given time to batshit crazies such as Deepak Chopra and Joseph Mercola, the latter described as a “pioneer in alternative medicine” and “a man your doctor doesn’t want you to know.” Usually Oz stops short of explicitly endorsing charlatans (at least in the earlier seasons), but just giving them a platform at all borders on malfeasance and is definitely a violation of any Hippocratic Oath, as well as giving these cranks and quacks an opportunity to promote themselves with an “as seen on the Dr. Oz Show” tag. His interaction with Mercola, according to critics (who are right), marked the completion of his journey to the Dark Side. He sealed it further by embracing homeopathy publicly and promoting it on his show in a segment called The Homeopathy Starter Kit. And with his “15 Superfoods” segment he has entered something frighteningly reminiscent of Kevin Trudeau-land.

Oz has furthermore promoted faith healing, “energy medicine”, reiki, and appeared on ABC News to give legitimacy to the claims of Brazilian faith healer “John of God,” who uses old carnival tricks to solicit money from the seriously ill. He has hosted Ayurvedic (http://www.skepdic.com/ayurvedic.html) guru Yogi Cameron on his show to promote nonsense “tongue examination” as a way of diagnosing health problems, and in 2011 he more or less endorsed none other than John Edward (good portrait here) – Oz even suggested that bereaved families should visit psychic mediums to receive messages from their dead relatives as a form of grief counseling. The segment is discussed here. He has later followed that one up with a segment featuring Long Island medium Theresa Caputo, whom Oz promotes as somehow being able to help his viewers deal with anxiety by communicating with dead relatives on “the other side” – indeed, he even brought ultrapseudoscientist Daniel Amen to his show to argue that brainscans show that Caputo’s psychic powers are genuine (needless to say, the brainscans show no such thing). He has promoted Goodnighties sleepwear, which is said to be “impregnated with a substance that emits negative ions,” red palm oil, contributed to the distribution of the Açai scams, and featured an anti-vaccine-sympathetic episode on autism with Bob Sears as his guest. The list goes on. If you ever came to doubt that Oz is a quack, there is for instance this, or his speculation about a connection between cell phone use and cancer (no, there is no evidence of such, for crying out loud), or his support for grounding.

Why does he do it, one might ask, and I suspect a lot is revealed in his manifesto, a chilling combo of various postmodernist relativist bullshit: “Medicine is a very religious experience. I have my religion and you have yours. It becomes difficult for us to agree on what we think works, since so much of it is in the eye of the beholder. Data is rarely clean. You find the arguments that support your data, and it’s my fact versus your fact.” No, it isn’t – but the sentiment explains quite a bit about how woomeisters think.

One of his biggest controversies involved the chemical resveratrol. While pharmaceutical research on laboratory mice showed some potential as an anti-aging agent, Dr. Oz promoted it as some New Age miracle, pushing his own supplemental version of the chemical, despite a current lack of evidence of its benefits or risks for humans. In 2012 he also provided some false balance regarding reparative therapy, which suggested that this utterly discredited bullshit might have some merit (discussed here).

Dr Oz is the proud winner of the James Randi Educational Foundation's Pigasus Award (Media section) in both 2010 and 2011 for doing “such a disservice to his TV viewers by promoting quack medical practices that he is now the first person to win a Pigasus two years in a row.” The awards are discussed here.

There are some good discussions of his practices here, here, and here (though the latter is a bit mild).

Diagnosis: One of the most dangerous cranks alive. No less.

2 comments:

  1. I haven't been too good with updates - it's simply a bit too much. A few (since the entry was originally posted) are here, here and here. His performance before Congress in June is worth a mention, and John Oliver's excellent take on that is discussed here.

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